01/07/10 6:06 PM EST
Jays share in disappointment with Alomar
Current CEO, former GM feel star was snubbed by Hall
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
The induction of Roberto Alomar into the National Baseball Hall of Fame was considered to be as much of a sure thing as the fact he would don a cap of the Blue Jays -- the club he spent the most time with and won his two World Series championships with -- upon enshrinement.
But the Baseball Writers' Association of America made two pretty surprising Hall of Fame announcements on Wednesday -- the enshrinement of Andre Dawson after being denied his eight prior times on the ballot, and the denial of Alomar despite being considered by many as a shoe-in.
After it was announced that the perennial All-Star had come up eight votes shy of capturing the 75 percent needed for induction -- amassing 397 votes, the most by a first-time candidate without getting in -- a telling photograph by The Associated Press made the rounds, one that captured a blank-faced Alomar sitting in a chair in his New York home, with his crying son nestled in his arms.
The city of Toronto, along with Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston, feel that pain.
"I was a little surprised and disappointed," Beeston said in a phone interview. "I'm disappointed for Robbie, because he was as good a player as anybody saw in the early '90s playing the game."
The do-everything, switch-hitting second baseman's remarkable 17-year career didn't technically start in Toronto -- he spent his first three years as a member of the Padres -- but his star was arguably born there. In his five years with the Blue Jays, Alomar made the American League All-Star team and won an AL Gold Glove each year, and he finished sixth in AL Most Valuable Player voting each of his first three seasons.
During that 1991-95 span, Alomar hit a collective .307 (the highest in club history) with 55 home runs, 342 RBIs and 206 stolen bases (second most in franchise history), putting himself on a path to eventual greatness.
"I think his career, his record, the way he comported himself on the field -- with the one exception -- all shows that he was a Hall of Fame player," Beeston said. "I think the fact that he's where he's at right now, I think everybody would agree he's a Hall of Fame player; he just didn't get in the first time. And for that, I'm disappointed, because I think there's something special about going in on your first ballot."
That "one exception" was Alomar's notorious confrontation with home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck, when Alomar spit in his face after disagreeing on a called third strike in 1996 -- though the two have since patched that up and are now good friends.
Many feel that's a main reason why Alomar only got 73.7 percent of the vote. Another could be the fact some Hall of Fame voters view first-ballot entry as "sacred," believing only a certain select group should gain induction on the first try.
But Pat Gillick, who had Alomar on his team as general manager of the Blue Jays and Orioles and is now senior advisor to the president and GM of the Phillies, doesn't believe in that notion.
"I don't subscribe to the fact that, first-time eligible, there's anything sanctimonious about it," Gillick said. "I think that if he's a Hall of Famer, he's a Hall of Famer. It doesn't depend on what round, what vote you go to."
During his playing days, Alomar was viewed as a gifted glovesmith, a scary stolen-base threat and a dangerous hitter -- for average and for power.
To Beeston, he was "The Natural."
"He was as close to a natural as you could see," Beeston said. "He really didn't have to take batting practice, he really didn't have to take infield. He just went out there and did it. Robbie was a real thrill to watch, and I don't think anybody that followed baseball or followed the Blue Jays back in the early '90s ever came away without a memory."
Alomar's career ended with a .300 batting average, 210 home runs, 474 stolen bases, 2,724 hits, 12 consecutive All-Star Game appearances and 10 Gold Gloves, as well as a .313 postseason batting average over 58 games.
Because of that, many figured Alomar's entrance into the Hall of Fame was a given, and then many saw his omission as a snub.
Though former Blue Jays such as Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield are enshrined in Cooperstown, Alomar would've been the first to go in with a Toronto cap.
But don't worry, Jays fans -- Alomar's enshrinement seems inevitable, despite an unsuccessful first attempt.
"We're a little disappointed that he didn't get in, but I'm certain that this is only the first vote," Gillick said.
"We're thinking very positively that next year will be the year for Robbie."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.