10/05/2003 6:57 PM ET
Happy days for Fonzie in playoffs
In defeat, slugging third baseman carries Giants
SAN FRANCISCO -- There is no official Most Valuable Player in the National League Division Series.
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
Pity. All it would cost is the price of a plaque. Or merely the recognition -- for free.
There is one Giants player who deserves the honor after one of the more sensational performances in San Francisco playoff history, although you won't hear third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo pointing his fingers at his chest and boasting he's "The Man" and raising heck that he was cheated out of an award.
Even if it doesn't exist.
The 29-year-old "Fonzie," a long-time New York Mets favorite who even paid for taxi signs when he left the Big Apple in the offseason thanking the fans for supporting him, had a blowout, super-energized NLDS despite the club's shocking 3-1 series loss to the Florida Marlins.
In the four games, the quiet-spoken Alfonzo hit .529 with nine hits, four doubles, five RBIs, one walk and a whopping .765 slugging percentage, along with errorless defensive play and a 1.000 "average" in heart, soul and determination.
At times, Edgardo seemed the lone Giant with his head in the game.
A few months ago, San Francisco fans were calling for that head, booing the newcomer while chastizing general manager Brian Sabean for signing Alfonzo to a four-year, $23 million deal with Alfonzo's bat cold as the fog that often hovers menacingly over The City.
Alfonzo struggled. He hit .167 in April, was only batting .228 by the end of May. His play at third was princely, but his average bordered on pauperdom. Funny thing, though. Alfonzo told manager Felipe Alou his bat would heat up as the summer wore on, that he would have close to 80 RBIs and double-figure homers by year's end.
And it happened. Alfonzo had 49 RBIs in the second half, hit .306 with eight homers over his last 71 games to lift his average 43 bountiful points. He was the fourth toughest player to strike out in the league.
He proved even hotter in the NLDS, right from the get-go, while it took some of his teammates a while to get going.
Game 1 at San Francisco: The Giants won, 2-0, with Alfonzo bunting safely after Rich Aurilia and Barry Bonds walked in the fourth inning against Josh Beckett. The bunt was perfectly placed down the third-base line, forcing Marlins defender Miguel Cabrera to throw off-line to first, enabling Aurilia to score.
In the eighth inning, with San Francisco clinging to a 1-0 lead behind veteran Jason Schmidt, Bonds was given a second intentional walk, surprisingly stole second then romped home on a two-bagger by -- yep -- Alfonzo.
Game 2 at San Francisco: The Giants lost, 9-5, despite holding a 4-1 lead after four frames. But Alfonzo did his part, doubling in two runs in the fourth then scoring himself on a Marquis Grissom grounder. In the eighth, even with Florida in command, Alfonzo singled in an attempt to ignite a rally.
After three games, the nine-year veteran was leading the Giants with a .615 average and four RBIs. And he wasn't finished.
Game 4 at Miami: San Francisco dropped it, 7-6, the image of J.T. Snow prone and still at home after an unsuccessful headfirst slide that could have tied the game frozen forever by cameras and memories. Alfonzo did his best, driving in the Giants' third run of a four-run comeback sixth inning.
Sorry, Edgardo, no MVP trophy for you. But what a series, what super play.
Hey, there's the Emmys and Oscars and Tonys ... why not a Fonzie Award for the Most Valuable Giant in future Division Series?
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.