Edgardo Alfonzo came to the Giants as an answer to the offensive questions posed by the departure of second baseman Jeff Kent. He signed a four-year, 26-million-dollar contract. He was slated to protect Barry Bonds and drive in runs.
But in the last three years, Alfonzo and his inconsistency have provided more questions than answers.
Giants fans are familiar with Alfonzo from his days with the Mets, especially his 2000 NLDS performance, in which he homered of recently departed Felix Rodriguez and, during Game Three, drove in the tying run, handing Rob Nen a blown save and sealing yet another San Francisco playoff loss.
He is entering his eleventh major league campaign, a veteran 31-year-old with a lifetime .288 average and 144 career home runs. But during his two seasons with the Giants, his offensive production, which at one time marked him as a premier National League infielder, has slipped. He hit 39 points lower in 2003 than the year before, and last season he started slowly again, hitting .219 in April, though he finished with a respectable mark of .289.
There are questions about his bat speed, which seems to have slowed considerably. There are reservations about his defensive ability, about his decreasing foot speed and shoddy glove work. And even his weight and official age have fallen under speculation.
Alfonzo has responded with an offseason of effort. He played winter ball for the first time in years, hitting .342 and driving in 13 runs in 18 games. He was reported to have lost twenty pounds, and upon arriving at camp, his weight was given at around 200, down considerably from last year’s official number of 226.
Most of all, he understands that his starting position is in jeopardy. After a breakout season, Pedro Feliz will be breathing down his proverbial neck for playing time. Alfonzo noted this upon his arrival to camp, admitting that he had been open to a trade in the winter months.
But his contract is too burdensome, his ability seeming in decline. For the 2005 campaign, Alfonzo has more questions to answer. But his bat came alive toward the end of last season, especially in August and September, when he hit .338 and .349. And he will no longer be one of the burdened power hitters surrounding Bonds, thanks to the arrival of Moises Alou and the resplendency of J.T. Snow.
He is poised to answer his critics with a resurgent year. And he seems to know better than anyone else that his time to perform in San Francisco is quickly running out.
Tim Denevi is a raving Giants fan who can't decide if he would rather have Mike Aldrete or Marvin Biz-nard pinch-hitting with the game on the line. E-mail him with your opinion on any issue at firstname.lastname@example.org
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