With Roberto Alomar being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to reiterate my incomprehension that he fell eight votes short of first ballot induction into Cooperstown in January. Anyone – and I mean even the most cynical baseball fan – who watched this guy play from 1990 to 2000 can’t deny that they were watching not only the best all-around second baseman of that era, but perhaps the greatest keystone sacker of all-time.
I’ve been a Blue Jays observer since 1980 and there’s no one in the history of the franchise that even comes close to being as mesmerizing in the field and at the plate as Alomar. He was an all-star and Gold Glove winner in each of his five seasons with the Jays. And his career stats – .300 batting average, 2,724 hits, 474 stolen bases, 504 doubles – are easily worthy of first ballot enshrinement. Add 12 all-star selections, 10 Gold Gloves and two World Series rings to the mix and this should have been a no-brainer.
Clearly, the negative impact from Alomar’s spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck on September 27, 1996, lingers. I know this first hand from giving tours at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame over the past couple of years. I was constantly surprised at the number of Jays fans that chose to remember the spitting incident rather than Alomar’s five all-star selections, miraculous defense, momentum-changing home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 ALCS or the starring role Alomar played in the Jays’ two World Series titles.
But if Hirshbeck and Alomar have buried the hatchet, why can’t the fans and some baseball writers? Basing a player’s character on one heat-of-the-moment incident is ludicrous. I know that a recent lawsuit against Alomar by an ex-lover has further tarnished his image. But as far as transgressions in his personal life, do we really want to go there? Trust me, if you delve into the personal lives of athletes, you’ll be sorely disappointed about some of the things you’ll find out about your favorite athletes.
To the baseball writers who didn’t vote for Alomar and to the Jays fans who are still griping about the spitting incident: please get over it. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame got this one right with their induction of Alomar. His next stop should be Cooperstown.