Here’s some random New York Mets trivia: who started at third base for the team in 1997 on Opening Day?
Take a moment to think about it. Who was on the roster? Robin Ventura wasn’t yet here which probably leads you to come to the conclusion that it was definitely Edgardo Alfonzo. Carlos Baerga was at second base so it must have been Fonzie. Is that your final answer?
Alfonzo wouldn’t start on Opening Day for the Mets until 1998. In 1997, he finished the game as the team’s third baseman but he was not the starter.
Remember the time when Butch Huskey started at third base for the Mets on Opening Day?
Butch Huskey played a lot of positions for the Mets—none of them all too well. Third base was the spot he played when he first came up in 1993 but he would soon find himself moving to first base and the corner outfield spots. Right field would be his primary position. To kick-off the 1997 campaign, the Mets had him across the diamond from John Olerud and right beside Rey Ordonez.
Huskey would make 7 errors in only 46 chances at third base in 1997. The time came to make a decision. Would the Mets allow the carnage to continue or not?
Instead of continuing to put Huskey out there, the Mets made a change. Alfonzo would take over the position while Huskey moved to right field as his main spot.
Huskey’s bat was an important one to the 1997 Mets. He slashed .287/.319/.503 for them while smacking 24 home runs and driving in 81. Much like some Mets players of today, finding a suitable spot for him on the field was the issue. Fortunately, the DH came to the National League in the regular season with the introduction of interleague play that same year. Huskey would become the first player to ever take on the role for the team in a regular season game.
While Huskey was offering the Mets a lot of offense and not much defense, Alfonzo became one of the club’s most important players in 1997. Appearing in 151 games and receiving 599 plate appearances, he’d slash .315/.391/.423 for them while supplying 10 home runs and 72 RBI.
In a time when power numbers were looked upon so favorably, Alfonzo still finished 13th in the MVP vote that year.
And to think, he wasn’t even on the Opening Day lineup card.