Roberto Alomar Should Be in Hall Already
Six years ago, I saw Roberto Alomar at his worst.
Alomar spent the first half of his final season with the Diamondbacks, and I was a beat writer covering the team. He hit .309 in 38 games but made little impact, missing two months with a broken hand after being hit by a pitch.
After being traded to the White Sox in August, Alomar hit .180, and the next spring, he retired.
Here's the thing: Despite what I saw up close, I can't believe Alomar is anything but a slam-dunk Hall of Famer.
That Alomar DIDN'T get in a year ago, in his first time on the ballot, still stuns me.
I can't imagine under what criteria Alomar is not a Hall of Famer.
Dominant player at his position for an extended period of time? Certainly. Ten Gold Gloves (and even though we know the criteria for a Gold Glove aren't very precise, he earned them) and 12 straight All-Star Games, from 1990-2001. If you're a believer in Wins Above Replacement, for the decade of 1992-2001 Alomar's WAR of 49.1 (by Baseball-Reference.com's formula) was 10th in the majors, ahead of Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin, Bernie Williams, Jim Thome, Gary Sheffield and Mark Grace.
One of the best ever at his position? Check. Among middle infielders, he is 11th all-time in hits, 10th in OPS, ninth in batting average, 10th in on-base percentage and 11th in slugging. Since 1950, only two middle infielders have had eight or more .300 seasons: Alomar and Derek Jeter.
Postseason resume? Yup. Alomar had a .313 average over 11 playoff series, with 32 runs scored and 33 RBI in those 58 games, and played for two World Series winners (the 1992-93 Blue Jays).
His was one box on my ballot I checked immediately. There are the players who I don't bother considering, there are the ones I need to research thoroughly and the ones who are such no-doubters I can just check them off.
But of the 539 voters last year, 134 didn't check off Alomar. He fell eight votes shy of the 75 percent needed for election by 10-year members of the BBWAA.
What did those 134 people have against Alomar?
Maybe it was the spitting incident of 1996, when Alomar spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck after being called out on strikes.
The Hall of Fame ballot instructs us to consider "the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." And no one takes the "integrity, sportsmanship, character" part more seriously than me; my current stance is that a player who took performance-enhancing drugs cheated and showed a lack of all three and thus doesn't get my vote.
But as terrible as Alomar's behavior was that day, Hirschbeck eventually forgave Alomar.
"It's one of those things that happened," Hirschbeck told me in 2004. "He wishes it didn't happen. I wish it didn't happen. But it did. It doesn't mean he's not a good person. Who hasn't made a mistake in life?"
To me, that one gob of spit hardly seems enough to keep Alomar from the Hall of Fame.
One voter publicly said he left Alomar off his ballot because of Alomar's "conspicuous apathy" during his season and a half (2002-03) with the Mets.
Alomar hit .265 for the Mets, with a .705 OPS. When he got to Arizona, I once asked him about his time in New York and the idea that he hated it there, or on the big stage.
Not so, he told me. Alomar said the only thing he didn't like about New York was losing; those teams finished in last place, and that's what caused him to lose interest.
(I will say this: Another thing I noticed watching Alomar up close was how relatively little he worked on his game. That told me that if he was relying on his natural ability and instinct when he was at his peak, then his talent was almost unfathomable.)
Some voters set a different standard for "first-ballot" Hall of Famers. And while I believe it's certainly reasonable for a voter to change his mind over time -- I flip-flopped on Jim Rice -- it seems silly to withhold a vote for a player one feels is deserving to keep him from joining the list of first-ballot inductees.
And I can't believe Alomar doesn't fit anyone's "first-ballot" standard.
Since Alomar was so close last year, if just a handful of people who vote like that kept him off a year ago, he should make it this year.
A year late, but in, which is all that matters.