12/23/09 7:00 PM ET
Alomar eyes first-ballot Hall nod
Superstar unmatched at second for more than a decade
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
It may be "winning time" on Jan. 6 for Roberto Alomar. The 12-time All Star and 10-time Gold Glove recipient is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time and seems the most likely of the newcomers to be elected when the results are announced that day."I'm not nervous, I'm excited," said a confident Alomar this week when reached at home in Tampa, Fla., by phone. "I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a big moment for all Puerto Ricans, especially my family. We're all expecting me to get elected." He is the youngest member of one of baseball's first families, the son of former big league infielder and coach Sandy Alomar Sr. and brother of Sandy Alomar Jr., a six-time All-Star catcher and now a coach with the Indians. All three were in the Padres organization when Roberto joined the big league team for good early in the 1988 season. The family hails from Salinas, Puerto Rico, near the southern coast of the island, and Alomar would be the first native of that Commonwealth to be elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America since Roberto Clemente was enshrined in a special 1973 election that came just shortly after his death in a New Year's Eve plane crash.
"If I get in, it will be not just for me, but in recognition of my entire family," Alomar said. "We will all get in. It will be a big Alomar victory and a big Puerto Rican victory."There are 26 players on the 2009 ballot, including first-timers such as Alomar, slugging first baseman Fred McGriff, designated-hitter extraordinaire Edgar Martinez, and Barry Larkin, a 12-time All-Star shortstop himself in 19 seasons, all with the Reds. Among the returnees with the best likelihood of being elected are outfielder Andre Dawson and pitching ace Bert Blyleven, who missed the cut this past January with 67 percent and 62.7 percent of the vote, respectively. A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from eligible BBWAA members to gain election. In 2009, leadoff great Rickey Henderson and former Red Sox slugger Jim Rice reached that threshold to gain entrance. Henderson was on the ballot for the first time and Rice made it in his 15th and last chance on the BBWAA ballot. Writers have the month of December to vote. Envelopes will be opened and tallied on the night of Jan. 5 and the new class is scheduled to be announced at 2 p.m. ET the next day. A media conference is slated for noon ET in New York on Jan. 7 to introduce any new members. Those winners will be inducted along with Veterans' Committee electees -- manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey -- on July 25 behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y. Alomar's final line of 2,724 hits, 210 homers, 1,134 RBIs, 474 stolen bases and a career .300 average in 2,379 games makes him a hot prospect to be selected as a first-timer, particularly as a second baseman. He certainly measures favorably with Ryne Sandberg, the last second baseman elected by the writers in 2005, his third year on the ballot. Sandberg, who played his entire 16-season career with the Cubs, had 2,386 hits, 282 homers, 1,061 RBIs, 344 steals and a career average of .285 in 2,164 games. Nellie Fox, a Veterans' committee electee in 1997, had 2,663 hits, drove in 790 runs and stole 76 bases during his 19-year career with the Philadelphia Athletics and White Sox. Joe Morgan, certainly the standard among second basemen in the post World War II era, had 2,517 hits, 268 homers and 1,133 RBIs in 2,649 games during his 22-year career, eight of them with Cincinnati's great Big Red Machine. Morgan was elected by the BBWAA in 1990. Like Morgan, Alomar won the World Series twice -- with the 1992-93 Blue Jays. He was also a key cog in helping two other teams into multiple postseasons -- the Orioles in 1996-97 and Indians in 1999 and 2001. "There were a lot of great second basemen in baseball history, a lot of second baseman that I admired," Alomar said. "When I came up with the Padres, I patterned myself after Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg. When I came up, Sandberg was starring for the Cubs and he's the guy I looked up to. They're already Hall of Famers and for me to be considered in the same breath with those guys is really something. "For me, to get in, it would be a mission accomplished." The first 14 years of Alomar's career were the substance of greatness, even though his play began to ebb after that during stops with the Mets, White Sox, D-backs and again with the White Sox before he retired in 2004. All 12 consecutive All-Star selections and the 10 Gold Gloves came during that earlier period. The one blemish on Alomar's record occurred near the end of his first year with the Orioles on Sept. 27, 1996, in Toronto when, during an escalating argument about a called third strike, he spat on umpire John Hirschbeck. Alomar was suspended for five games, although he claimed at the time that Hirschbeck called him a derogatory name that caused the instant reaction. The two long ago have moved past the incident, have shaken hands publicly at home plate before an Orioles game on April 22, 1997. Hirschbeck went on to become the first president of the World Umpires Association and was the home-plate umpire in San Francisco on Aug. 7, 2007, when Barry Bonds hit his 756th homer to pass Hank Aaron into first place on the all-time list. "I wish I had a Hall of Fame vote because I would certainly vote for [Alomar]," Hirschbeck recently told the New York Daily News, adding, "I have to say if the spitting incident was the worst thing Robbie ever did, then he's lived a real good life." Alomar claimed back then and still maintains to this day that he didn't know Hirschbeck had lost his son to adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) -- a genetic neurological disease that strikes one in nearly 18,000 young boys worldwide each year -- prior to the incident. It is the only element of Alomar's career that he regrets. "Unfortunately, I can't erase that moment," he said. "All I could do was apologize and I did apologize. The only person that needed to forgive me was John and he did forgive me. He's been real supportive of me and I've been very supportive of him. I got to know his family. We established a foundation to find a cure for the disease that took his son's life. And to me, that's the importance of it. "As long as he forgave me and we became friends, that's what matters to me."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.