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January 17 2007

Rod Barajas isn't the only new Phillie who will be able to regale his teammates with stories of World Series glory.

Antonio Alfonseca broke into the league with the Florida Marlins in 1997 at age 25.  He threw just 25 2/3 innings that season, and not particularly impressive innings at that.  He allowed 36 hits and ten walks while pitching to a 1-3 mark with a 4.91 ERA.  Opponents hit
.324 against him.

The Marlins didn't need him much in the regular season.  Led by a pitching staff that saw Kevin Brown, Alex Fernandez and 22-year-old rookie Livan Hernandez combine to win 42 games, and the bats of Gary Sheffield, Moises Alou and Bobby Bonilla, the Marlins finished
92-70.  The Braves won the NL East with a 101-61 mark and the Fish made the organization's first appearance in the post-season as the winners of the Wild Card.  The Phillies, meanwhile, finished in fifth place in the NL East, 33 games out of first place.

The Marlins quickly dispatched Barry Bonds and the Giants in the first round of the playoffs, sweeping the series in three games.  They followed that up by beating the Braves in six games and headed to the World Series against the heavily favored Cleveland Indians.  Alfonseca hadn't thrown a post-season pitch.

The 1997 Indians were a fearsome group of bats.  Sandy Alomar, Jim Thome, Matt Williams, Manny Ramirez and Dave Justice all hit at least 20 home runs.  They finished second in the AL in runs scored to only the Yankees, who the Indians beat three games to two in the
ALDS.  Cleveland needed six games in the ALCS to beat the Orioles, who led the AL with 98 wins that season.

The Marlins jumped out to an early lead in the series with a 7-4 win in the opener.

Alfonseca would see the first post-season action of his career in game two, although not till the game was out of reach.  Kevin Brown got the start for the Marlins and was hit hard, allowing six runs in six innings.  Alfonseca started the eighth with the Marlins trailing
6-1 and would finish the game, going two innings and keeping the Tribe off the board while allowing three singles.  Cleveland held on to win by five runs and the series was tied at a game apiece as the teams headed to Cleveland.

Game three was tied 7-7 in the top of the ninth before the Marlins scored seven times in the inning, aided by three Indians errors and a wild pitch, to pull ahead 14-7.  Cleveland would get four in the bottom of the ninth but the Marlins took the game 14-11 and lead the series two games to one.

Alfonseca made his second appearance in game four in another situation where the game was out of hand.  Marlins' starter Tony Saunders didn't make it out of the third inning, surrendering six runs on seven hits and three walks.  With nobody out, the bases
loaded, and the Fish already down 5-0 in the bottom of the third, Jim Leyland called on Alfonseca.  And he did a good job.  He gave up an RBI-single to Tony Fernandez that put Cleveland up 6-0, but followed that up by striking out Marquis Grissom and Bip Roberts with the bases loaded.  Omar Vizquel popped out to second to end the inning.  Alfonseca would return to keep Cleveland off the board in the fourth and the fifth and end the day having gone three scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out four.  The Indians
won the game 10-4 and the series was tied at 2-2.

The Marlins barely held on to win game five.  Livan Hernandez took an 8-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the Marlins made two errors in the inning and Robb Nen had to come in and put out the fire.  Florida got out with an 8-7 win and a three games to two lead in the series.

Alfonseca was on the bench again in game six as the Indians won 4-1 to send the series to a game seven.

If Alfonseca's World Series action to that point had been characterized by games where the outcome had already been determined, he was about to be thrown into the fire.  Baseball situations simply don't get much more intense.  Cleveland pulled ahead early in game seven.  A two-run single off the bat of Tony Fernandez put the Indians up 2-0 on Marlins' starter Al Lieter.  Jaret Wright pitched the game of his life, shutting the Marlins down for six scoreless innings until Bobby Bonilla led off the top of the seventh with a home run that cut the Cleveland lead to 2-1.

Alfonseca entered in the top of the eighth with the Marlins still down a run and set down Fernandez, Manny Ramirez and David Justice without a peep.  He would return to start the ninth, walking Matt Williams to start off the inning but getting Alomar to ground to short for the first out of the frame before being replaced  by Felix Heredia.  Heredia gave up a single to Jim Thome that put runners on first and third with one down, but Robb Nen came in and retired Grissom and Brian Giles to end the inning with the Marlins still down just a run.

Jose Mesa came into the game in the bottom of the ninth to try to nail down the save for the Indians.  Didn't go so well.  Omar Vizquel would later write in his autobiography that Mesa's eyes were "vacant.  Completely empty.  Nobody home."  And, as you know, the pair has gotten along like two peas in a pod ever since.  The Marlins tied the game at 2-2 on singles from Moises Alou and Charles Johnson and a sac fly from Craig Counsell.  They would win the game and the series in the bottom of the eleventh on an RBI-single from Edgar Renteria.

Alfonseca ended the series having thrown 6 1/3 scoreless innings over three World Series games.  He allowed six hits and a walk and struck out five.

The Phillies web site spewed forth a bazillion things yesterday.  Here goes:

The Phillies will not go to arbitration with Aaron Rowand.  They have agreed to a one-year contract under which the Phillies will pay him $4.35 million.  With Madson and Rowand having avoided arbitration, Utley, Myers and Geary remain.

This article says that Madson is expected to be the eighth inning guy.  I still think it's likely we'll see the Phillies add a big name to pitch the eighth inning before the season starts.  Even if they don't I think Geary may be more likely to get the call than Madson.

The Phillies are happy to go into the season with six starters and they want to be sure everyone knows that.  Really they are.  Really.  They don't need to trade anyone, especially not a starting pitcher.  And their bullpen is solid, as evidenced by the penciled-in setup man with an ERA near six last season and big-name candidates to fill the remaining spots like Alfredo Simon and Anderson Garcia.

There is yet another article on the web site from yesterday, this one about the Phillies' infield prospects.  I can pretty much bottom line it for you, though:  if anyone in the Phillies infield gets hurt this season the team has about zero chance of replacing them with anyone nearly as effective or even ready to play in the major leagues.  Check back again in about 2010.

The Phillies claimed 28-year-old left-handed infielder Greg Dobbs off waivers from the Mariners.  Dobbs went 10-for-27 (.370) with Seattle last season after hitting 246/288/331 with the Mariners in 142 at-bats in 2005.  In 100 games with Seattle over the past three seasons he has appeared at first, third and both of the corner outfield positions.  In the PCL last year he hit 312/374/447 with nine home runs in 378 at-bats.  He has never hit more than ten home runs in a season at any minor league stop, but his career minor league line of 307/360/456 in 1,711 at-bats is more impressive. He seems to be an extreme long shot to make the Phils as a left-handed hitter off the bench, but could give some kind of a boost to an organization with a weak but improving minor league system and unusually limited options at third.  He and his wife were expecting their first child any day.

Who does Ryan Howard think is the epitome of what baseball is today?  It'll come to you.

This article guesses the Phillies will trade Lieber to the Mets.

This article says the Blue Jays were interested in a deal that would have sent Alex Rios to the Phillies for Brett Myers.

This article says that Eaton would pitch out of the pen if asked, that Roberson is still a candidate for fifth outfielder and Fabio Castro a strong candidate for the pen.  I'd be surprised to see Eaton pitch out of the pen or Roberson as the fifth outfielder.  Castro seems to have a solid shot at this point.

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