Roberto Alomar is a
first-ballot Hall of Famer -- period.
No doubt about it, either.
For in the
game's history, no second baseman had hands any softer than his. Alomar gobbled
up baseballs like Pacman. To see him play every day, as I did during his two
seasons with the Indians, was like watching Pablo Picasso paint or Placido
Domingo sing "Don Rodrigo."
Had dance been
his calling, Alomar would have been Rudolph Nureyev or Michael Jackson.
cover ground around the second base bag; he reigned over the region. Hit a ball
anywhere near the right side of the infield, and count on one thing: Alomar's
making the play.
With the glove,
no second baseman in my memory -- and my memory on things baseball stretches into
the '60s -- was his superior; perhaps none was his equal. People rave about Bill
Mazeroski, Nellie Fox, Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, Lou Whitaker, Craig Biggio, Frank
White and Jackie Robinson; these men were splendid with their gloves, too. Compared
to Alomar, all were Camaro V8s; he was a Corvette.
It was his glove, however, that always defined Alomar and his career. He won 10 Gold Gloves, and why that total wasn't two or three Gold Gloves higher puzzles me still. As a second baseman, he was the best fielder there ever was.
So I can't imagine how any person with a Hall of Fame vote -- and I don't have one, by the way -- can leave Alomar's name off the ballot and not be ashamed for doing so. What more could Alomar have done?
His game was complete. He made the All-Star team 12 times, no insignificant achievement this; he batted .300, knocked in 1,134 runs and stole 474 bases during his career. If these numbers don't show Alomar's credentials are bona fide for a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame induction, nothing else does.
Every team Alomar played for he made better. During his 17-year career, he won championships, and he was a no-doubt-about-it star, which is what first-ballot Hall of Famers ought to be.
I'm guessing some of Alomar's critics will hold his spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck in 1996 against him. The incident does sully his character. But didn't Alomar, playing for the Orioles at the time, apologize for it -- countless times?
He made amends, didn't he?
In a gesture of his sincerity, Alomar, the son of a Major Leaguer, chipped in $50,000 and his time to help Hirschbeck raise money for ALD, a crippling disease that had killed the umpire's son.
Alomar and Hirschbeck have built a bond that canceled any ill-will they might have held against each other. Besides, the incident was so long ago that a casual baseball fan might have forgotten it altogether. No baseball fan, though, can forget what kind of player Alomar was.
He was the best at what he did - as good as anybody else who ever played the position. He was to second base what Ozzie Smith was to shortstop. Alomar also avoided the taint of 'roids, a rarity among stars from the 1990s.
So if Roberto Alomar isn't Hall of Fame worthy -- first-ballot variety -- then the standards for induction have grown to the point that nobody is going to get in again.
They might as well close Cooperstown.