Free Fonzie!

99_nldsgm4_fonzie.pngOver the weekend, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post wrote a brief, heartbreaking (to me) article about former Met Edgardo Alfonzo, erstwhile member of The Greatest Infield Ever. He’s been in the baseball wilderness since 2006, playing for the independent Long Island Ducks, the Mexican league, and the Venezuelan winter league. Last year, like his former teammate Benny Agbayani, he finally won a championship thanks to the Japanese baseball league, going all the way with the Yomiuri Giants.

But as thrilling as that was, he has one thing he still wants to do: he wants to retire as a Met.

My dream is to retire with the Mets colors. That’s my dream. That’s what I’m praying for, maybe it will happen, maybe not, but dreams sometimes come true, you know….I love the Mets and I love the Mets fans. I would like that dream to come true.

Fonzie thinks he still has some baseball left in him, and can be a good utility man. He’s hoping the Mets will extend him a spring training invite. If he makes the team, great. If not, he’s happy to retire from the majors wearing orange and blue.

Perhaps you’re not aware of how unusual this is. Most Mets leave town in a huff, or in disgrace, or embittered, or in some head scratchingly bad trade. Almost no player retires as a Met, and the few that do make little sense.

In recent memory, I recall Jeromy Burnitz and Todd Zeile playing their last seasons as Mets, both in their second tour of duty with the team. Neither were exactly returning heroes. Then there were random spring training invitees like Andres Galaragga and Bret Boone, who quit the game rather than fight for a roster spot on bad Met teams.

Even Tom Seaver barely retired as a Met. He got a token spring training invite in 1987, then hung up his cleats for good. He should have never left the team in the first place, but that’s a whole other story. Ask Dick Young about it, should you ever find yourself strolling through hell.

Edgardo Alfonzo says he wants to retire as a Met. I don’t think anyone has uttered those words in the last 30 years.

99_nldsgm1_fonzie4.jpgOf course, this is the man who, upon leaving the Mets for free agency after the 2002 season, used his own money to take out ads on top of taxicabs to thank Mets fans for their support. As The 1999 Project will attest, he had nothing but huge hits that year, particularly in September and into the playoffs. He was a Gold Glove caliber third baseman (I mean in the imaginary universe where Gold Gloves are handed out for actual fielding skills and not on legacy/popularity). But he moved to second base to make way for Robin Ventura, never uttered a peep about it, and played just as well there.

That was The Fonzie Way: quiet, dignified, workmanlike. He was constantly overshadowed by flashier players and the random course of events. Still–and I know that as a rational baseball fan, this is a borderline silly thing to say/write, but I’m saying it anyway–in a big spot, in a must-win game, there was no player I’d want coming up to bat for the Mets more than Edgardo Alfonzo.

As I’ve written on many occasions, the Mets (as an organization) don’t do right by their history. They don’t honor it, they don’t cherish it, and they barely acknowledge it. Alfonzo is not a legendary player, but he was a great one for a short period of time, and he was definitely a beloved one.

If we were talking about virtually any other organization, there’d be no question that he’d get a spring training invite. Maybe you strike gold, and Fonzie has something left in the tank. If not, it costs the team virtually nothing, you grant his wish, and pay him back for everything he did for the team.

I don’t have much faith in the Mets to do the right thing by Fonzie. But I hope this is enough of a no brainer that even they can make this happen.