You know, I went to the Dominican Republic on my honeymoon. We stayed in La Romana, the birthplace of pitcher Antonio Alfonseca. It’s too bad that my honeymoon didn’t take place around July 16, 1971. That would have been right around the time that Mr. Alfonseca was laying it to Mrs. Alfonseca and conceiving their son, “El Pulpo.” I could have saved all of us a lot of anguish by introducing myself to Mrs. Alfonseca, courting her, and laying the lumber to her like every single batter in the National League would eventually do to her son. Alas, I was born years too late, and Mr. Alfonseca’s mutant sperm found its way to Mrs. Alfonseca’s egg to create the twelve-fingered freak of nature who made my life miserable every time he took the mound for two straight seasons as a Cub.
Just before the 2002 season, projected Cubs closer Tom Gordon went down with an injury forcing the Cubs to make a trade with the Florida Marlins for Alfonseca, their closer, and Matt Clement. The Cubs sent back Julian Tavarez, Ryan Jorgensen, Dontrelle Willis, and Jose Cueto. Willis went on to become one of the better left-handed starters in the National League. He also won a World Series. Alfonseca and Clement both made this list.
I didn’t understand the trade for Alfonseca. Even when he was “good” in 2000, winning the National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, he really wasn’t that good. Sure, he racked up 45 saves, but he also had a 4.24 ERA and a 1.514 WHIP, and he struck out only 47 batters in 70 innings. He was hardly a dominating closer at any point in his career. Who would have thought he’d become much, much worse as a Cub? Oh, wait. Me. Me thought that. Alfonseca didn’t disappoint. Hell, his #1 “Similar Pitcher” according to Baseball-Reference is Mel Rojas.
I have long believed that athletes should be held more accountable for being out-of-shape blobs of shit. As soon as David Wells dies of his inevitable massive coronary, I think Alfonseca may take the reigns as the least-athletic athlete in Major League Baseball. I know those two extra fingers must add a little bit of weight, but geez. You’ve made almost $20M dollars in your career. Would it kill you to hire a nutritionist and do some f@#$ing sit-ups? It would, wouldn’t it?
Alfonseca blew nine saves in his first year with the Cubs in only 28 opportunities. That’s a miserable 68% save percentage. What was worse than the blown saves, though, was watching Alfonseca point in the air, dance, and waggle his fat ass around the mound every time he made an out. Never mind the fact that he gave up four runs with two outs, that third out was apparently the most important one to get. Alfonseca was like that guy on your slow-pitch softball team who strikes out swinging with the game on the line to lose the championship game for you, but then next season hits a solo home run with the team already up 8 runs and circles the bases like he’s Kirk f@#$ing Gibson in the 1988 World Series. Alfonseca’s antics weren’t just annoying, they were embarrassing. He was almost worse when he recorded a big out than when he didn’t. Clueless, cocky mother f@#$er.
Maybe the Cubs should have made him an outfielder. Alfonseca batted .667 in 2002 with the Cubs. In one of the most idiotic and hilarious moments of that season, Don Baylor managed to send Alfonseca to the plate with the bases loaded with two outs in the 9th inning of a slim 4-3 Cubs lead. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Baylor inexplicably double-switched in Augie Ojeda for Mark Bellhorn, the 6th batter due in the 9th inning instead of Delino DeShields, the 9th batter due. Of course, Alfonseca came up. Of course, Baylor was too stupid to realize that in a situation like that, you pinch hit, pray for a base hit, and get your best reliever still in the bullpen warmed up. Of course, Alfonseca looked like a complete jackass at the plate. Of course, he hit a weak ground ball which miraculously found the side of the first-base bag, kicked up over Lee Stevens’ head, and scored two runs. My memory may be shaky, but I think that Alfonseca actually did the Truffle Shuffle when he made it to first. He at least did that dance that Liam does at the beginning of The Big Lebowski.
If Alfonseca’s Montreal at-bat wasn’t the most hilarious moment in his Cubs career, then it must have been the time during the classic September 2003 Cubs-Cardinals series at Wrigley Field when Alfonseca was suspended for seven games for hitting umpire Justin Klemm. Hitting him with his stomach. Did I mention Alfonseca wasn’t actually in the game at the time of the altercation?
Now is as good a time as any to confess that I have an unexplained, deep-seeded hatred for Jose Mesa. In fact, I hate Mesa so much, I’m stunned he was never a Cub. Alfonseca was the shittier version of Jose Mesa. They were both from the Dominican Republic. They both won Rolaids Relief Man of the Year awards. They were both in the 1997 World Series. They were both hotheads. They both had the same stupid-looking beard. They were both fat. I guess you could say I got all the benefits of hating Jose Mesa without actually having to watch Jose Mesa play baseball. Yay?
The Cubs let Alfonseca walk after the 2003 season. The Braves signed him and, if you need any more proof that Leo Mazzone is one of the greatest pitching coaches in the history of Major League Baseball, Mazzone coaxed a 2.57 ERA and a 1.344 WHIP out of Alfonseca, both lows for Alfonseca’s career. Another case of a Cub sucking worse in a Cubs uniform, or an indictment of Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild? Maybe a little bit of both.
Low Point: May 26, 2003. I was tempted to use this low point for Juan Cruz. But I wanted to save this one for Alfonseca. I vividly remember listening to this game on MLB.com radio. I remember it so well because I seriously thought it was going to kill Ron Santo. The Cubs entered the top of the 8th inning down 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Wrigley Field. Cruz failed to retire any of the six batters he faced, allowing three runs to score and leaving the bases loaded for Alfonseca. Alfonseca walked in a run, then retired the next two batters he faced on a fielder’s choice and a strikeout. Had he been able to slam the door, the Cubs may have had a chance to rally from a 5-0 deficit. Instead, Alfonseca allowed four straight two-out singles before retiring Aramis Ramirez. By the end of the inning, a 1-0 pitchers’ duel had turned into a 10-0 laugher. Kenny Lofton got two hits in the inning, and both Jeff Reboulet and Brian Giles reached base twice.
Did You Know? Alfonseca was once chased by a demon. In 2002, the Marlins expected Alfonseca to lose 15 pounds to relieve stress on a herniated disc. Rather then shatter the Marlins’ scale into a million tiny pieces during a weigh-in, Alfonseca chose to cuss out professional wrestler and Marlins conditioning coach Dale “The Demon” Torborg. Torborg screamed at Alfonseca so violently that Alfonseca ran like a little bitch to the trainer’s office and locked the door. No word on whether he used his tiny polydactyly fingers to lock the door.