15th Anniversary Team: Shortstop
The voting treks onward for the 15th Anniversary Team as another weekend is upon us. Fans were casting their ballots in full force for the second base position, and unlike catcher and first base, the winner for this position claimed the spot by a landslide. Who that was though we cannot say just yet. You’ll have to wait until Opening Night at Bethpage Ballpark on Friday, May 2 to find out for sure.
This week, it’s onto the shortstops. This position includes four nominees, some of which are among the most recognizable names in franchise history. The man who helped the Ducks to their first Atlantic League championship makes this list as does the one who was a vital piece of Long Island’s last two titles. Add in a 12-year Major League veteran and a two-year big leaguer and you’ve got a pretty good group of talent that’s played shortstop. Let’s take a look at the four nominees:
In 2013, Ducks founder/CEO Frank Boulton said of Lyons, “He just has a ‘Bud Harrelson’ quality to him.” That’s the kind of high praise that the Ducks shortstop of the last three seasons has received since coming to Long Island. Originally expected to be a utility infielder, Lyons took over at shortstop when Javier Colina battled an oblique injury in 2011. From the moment he stepped on the field, he made an immediate impact in the lineup and used a combination of speed, a disciplined bat and outstanding defense to stick. Now about to enter his fourth season with the Flock, Lyons has won three Liberty Division titles and two Atlantic League championships, along with being named Championship Series MVP in 2012. That same year, he also earned the starting nod in the Atlantic League All-Star Game. From his waddle-off single to win the First Half title in 2012 to his game-winning double in Game Two of the 2012 ALCS to the “bunt heard ‘round the world” that won the title for Long Island in Game Five, he’s etched himself forever in Ducks history.
Baez came to Long Island in 2002 with three years of Major League experience with the New York Mets and 14 years of professional baseball experience. For a player whose career was winding down, Baez proved to be one of the best shortstops the franchise would ever see. Defensively, he was a wizard, especially so in 2004 when he posted a .974 fielding percentage. Speaking of 2004, that season would be the most magical for the three-time Atlantic League All-Star. In the midsummer classic, he went 2-for-4 with two runs batted in and the go-ahead run in the North Division’s 10-8 win. That garnered him the All-Star Game MVP honors at Campbell’s Field in Camden, New Jersey. Two and a half months later, he would bring home the championship-series winning run when he was hit by a pitch in Game Three of Long Island’s sweep of the Riversharks. While he may now be remembered for his success as a manager of the Flock, and he’ll certainly be included in the voting for the “Flock 15” manager, the first memories of him in a Ducks uniform will be as a player.
When Alfonzo was signed prior to the 2007 season, Ducks fans were immediately excited. “Fonzie” had spent eight years with the New York Mets, earning a Silver Slugger Award, an All-Star appearance and a National League championship in the process. After spending the previous year with the Blue Jays and Angels, he came to the Ducks looking to finish out his career in one of the most respected leagues in baseball. In two seasons on Long Island, Alfonzo batted .289 with 13 home runs, 83 RBI, 90 runs and 36 doubles in 164 games. He played solid defense at shortstop as well but also showed some versatility by spending time at second and third base too. In terms of success, Alfonzo helped the Ducks to a pair of playoff appearances, including an outstanding 72-54 record in 2007. The Venezuela native resurfaced in the Atlantic League with the Newark Bears in 2010 before deciding to retire.
Pena spent two seasons in a Ducks uniform (2003 and 2006), earning an All-Star selection in 2003. That season was one of the best in franchise history. With Baez switching over to third base and eventually getting signed by the Reds organization, Pena posted a .316 batting average in 123 games and added eight homers, 54 RBI, 104 runs, 151 hits, 30 doubles and six triples. On the basepaths, he stole 45 bases and was caught just six times. The former big leaguer with the Rockies and Brewers had an incredible combination of an outstanding bat and blazing speed, but he also was strong defensively, posting a .967 fielding percentage at shortstop. While his success wasn’t enough for the Ducks to reach the postseason in 2003, he helped the team to the playoffs in 2006 by playing in 105 games. While his offensive numbers weren’t as strong (.255 AVG, 1 HR, 27 RBI), he still scored 63 runs, had 19 doubles and stole 38 bases. Pena spent the 2007 season in Italy before deciding to retire from baseball.
The time has come to cast your ballots Ducks fans. Which of these four candidates do you feel deserves the shortstop spot on the 15th Anniversary Team? Don’t forget, you can write in a candidate as well on the poll if you feel there is one that deserves the recognition. The infield is almost complete with just this week and next week to go. The “Flock 15” is shaping up to be full of outstanding talent, and your votes will help make it the most memorable group possible.
Posted on February 21, 2014, in Weekend Debate and tagged 15th Anniversary Team, 2014, Atlantic League, Championship, Dan Lyons, Edgardo Alfonzo, Elvis Pena, Flock 15, Kevin Baez, Long Island Ducks, Major League Baseball, Voting. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.