Roberto Alomar: MLB's best-ever 2nd baseman?
Former Blue Jay's .300 average, 2,724 hits, 10 Gold Gloves present strong case
It's taken more than 33 years but it looks as though the Toronto Blue Jays will finally be represented in the National Baseball Hall of Fame's plaque gallery.
It was announced Wednesday that former Blue Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar will be inducted into the Hall of Fame July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y., alongside ex-Minnesota Twins ace pitcher Bert Blyleven.
Though the Hall makes the final decision on which cap a player is depicted wearing on their plaque, Alomar has already said that he'd like to be recognized as a Blue Jay. After arriving with Joe Carter in the blockbuster deal on Dec. 5, 1990 that saw Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff shipped to San Diego, Alomar was an all-star and Gold Glove Award winner in each of his five seasons in Toronto, earning himself two World Series rings in the process.
Named on 90 per cent of writers' ballots, Alomar's vote total jumped significantly from last year, when he fell eight votes short of the requisite 75 per cent. On top of his success in Toronto, Alomar's resumé — .300 batting average, 2,724 hits, 474 stolen bases, 504 doubles, 12 all-star selections, 10 Gold Gloves — not only makes him a Hall of Famer, but arguably the greatest second baseman of all-time.
Glew's Hall of Fame ballot (if he had a vote):
- Bert Blyleven
- Roberto Alomar
- Barry Larkin
- Jeff Bagwell
- Larry Walker
- Fred McGriff
- Tim Raines
- Jack Morris
- Edgar Martinez
- John Olerud
It seems clear now that baseball scribes sentenced Alomar to a year in Hall of Fame purgatory for spitting in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck on Sept. 27, 1996. Though it happened more than 14 years ago, the spitting incident is still the first thing that most people remember about Alomar. His sparkling defence, momentum-changing home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 American League Championship Series and his starring role in the Jays' two World Series titles all seem secondary to his memorable tantrum.
For years, I've contended that if Hirschbeck and Alomar have buried the hatchet, why can't fans and baseball writers? Basing a player's character on one heat-of-the-moment incident seems inane. With that said, Alomar's recent legal woes — including allegations of domestic violence — have proven that he isn't exactly a model citizen. But he wasn't being considered for the Hall of Morality. If saintliness was a prerequisite for the baseball shrine, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth — two of the greatest baseball players of all time — certainly wouldn't be members.
While maybe not be a Hall of Fame person, Alomar is definitely a Hall of Fame player, and it seems fitting that he'll be inducted alongside former Jays general manager, Pat Gillick on July 24. After all, it was Gillick who traded for Alomar in 1990. With Gillick, who became a Canadian citizen in 2005, as GM, the Jays recorded 11 consecutive winning seasons (1983 to 1993), captured five division titles and won two World Championships.
Bert Blyleven, another two-time World champion, will join Alomar in Cooperstown in July. The workhorse right-hander, who won 287 games, was elected in his 14th year on the ballot. Without a Cy Young Award and only named to two all-star teams during his 22-year career, Blyleven was an easy candidate to overlook.
A closer examination of his statistics, however, reveals that he ranks in the top 15 in a number of all-time pitching categories — including strikeouts (3,701), shutouts (60), games started (685) and innings pitched (4,970). After falling five votes short in 2010, Blyleven was named on 79.7 per cent of ballots this year.
Vying to become the second Canadian player to be inducted (alongside Fergie Jenkins), Maple Ridge, B.C., native, Larry Walker was named on just 20.3 per cent of writers' ballots. While he played the bulk of his career at hitter friendly Coors Field, the Canuck slugger's numbers are Cooperstown worthy.
His .565 slugging percentage ranks 14th all-time, ahead of baseball immortals like Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Walker also won three batting titles, the 1997 National League MVP Award and seven Gold Gloves during his 17-year career, and a good argument could be made that he was the best all-around player of his era.
The former outfielder, who will be on the ballot again in 2012, can take some solace in the fact that Blyleven was named on just 17.5 per cent of writers' ballots in his first year of eligibility.
Jack Morris and Fred McGriff are two former Jays that also deserve to be inducted. In his 12th year of eligibility, Morris garnered his highest vote total yet (53.5 per cent), while McGriff, who belted 493 homers, was named on only 17.9 per cent of writers' ballots. Ex-Jays John Olerud, Al Leiter, Raul Mondesi and Benito Santiago were also considered but failed to record the requisite five per cent to stay on the ballot in the future. Dave Parker, who played briefly with the Jays in 1991, received 15.3 per cent in his final year on the ballot.
Aside from Walker, Lee Smith (played with Montreal in 1997) and Tim Raines are two former Expos likely to be honoured in the future. Smith, who owns 478 career saves, saw his vote total drop two percent in 2011, while Raines's total rose 7.1 per cent. In their first year of consideration, ex-Expos Marquis Grissom and Kirk Rueter didn't generate enough support to remain on the ballot.
Aside from Alomar and Blyleven, the leading vote getter was longtime Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, who was named on 62.1 per cent of writers' ballots. Tabbed on 41.7 per cent of writers' ballots, Jeff Bagwell recorded the most votes of any newcomer.
Similar to previous years, baseball writers weren't kind to players linked to steroids. Mark McGwire was listed on only 19.8 per cent of writers' ballots, the lowest number since he became eligible in 2007, while Rafael Palmeiro came in at a meagre 11 per cent in his first year of eligibility.