Back in September after his final game as manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones, Tom Gamboa was asked who would be a good successor. There was no hesitation when he said, “Alfonzo” and indeed Edgardo Alfonzo was the perfect choice to manage the New York Mets Class-A team.
Said Gamboa then, and with no hesitation when asked, “Fonzie” would be good here. He knows the organization, is in the community and is associated with the fans and the Mets.”
Thursday, the Cyclones kept the manager job within the family. Alfonzo, a coach under Gamboa the past three years becomes the 11th manager for the Cyclones and indeed is the perfect fit. There were no other logical candidates for the job and reportedly Alfonzo was their first choice.
And there is logic to having Alfonzo in the Cyclones dugout. Though most of the roster will not be the same, a usual occurrence for teams in short league play, the former Mets All-Star has always been a favorite among fans and in the organization.
The task is to get the Cyclones back in the playoffs, More importantly Alfonzo will have that role of evaluating and reporting to the Mets hierarchy about the prospects that will comprise the Cyclones roster.
Not an easy task, and by all means it never is, but Alfonzo is conscious of the Mets needs when it comes to player development. In between managing home games at MCU Park, he will continue to serve as a club ambassador for the Mets.
This past season the Cyclones finished two games under .500 and missed the Short-A season playoffs. Attendance was down at MCU Park and the presence of Alfonzo in the dugout can give that a boost. Alfonzo was one of the more popular Mets during his eight year tenure and ranks fifth in hits, runs and doubles, seventh in RBI and ninth in home runs.
Mets fans will also remember that “Fonzie” is the franchise leader in go-ahead hits.
So the Mets kept this job within their family. And there are the questions why they would not do the same with Wally Backman, who is mentioned but not under consideration to succeed Terry Collins in the dugout when he leaves the big team in Flushing.
There are many questions to still be answered about the Wally Backman situation. He will not return this coming season as manager of the Mets Triple A affiliate in Las Vegas and is a fan favorite.
But the Mets saw something with Backman that did not fit, and exactly what that is has to be determined, whether it be from the past or his knowledge and capability to manage not meeting their guidelines.
Alfonzo, according to many in the organization has always been their choice to manage one day at a higher level. He avoided that question during the height of the Cyclones season and left most of the decision making to Gamboa, a veteran of 40 years in the game.
“If the opportunity comes I will make decisions then,” Alfonzo said in June, “but for now my job is to help instruct these young players and help them get to the next level.”
Gamboa saw that development with Michael Paez the Mets fourth round pick in 2016. He struggled at the plate and worked with Alfonzo to change his swing that was accustomed to hitting the home run ball at Coastal Carolina.
Alfonzo learned to adjust as a player in New York. Surely the Mets and Cyclones will promote his new managerial role to their advantage and when it comes to popularity with fans, well “Fonzie” was their man for the job.
And in the Class-A league getting fans in the seats is a Herculean task, more so with two teams in the New York market that includes the Staten Island Yankees.