Yesterday Roberto Alomar announced his retirement from baseball. For me, Alomar retiring before the 2005 is kind of a shock remembering how good he was in his three-year stint with the Indians. The season he had in 1999 ranks right up there with Albert Belle’s 1995 as the best individual season I’ve seen an Indians player have. Here’s his line in 1999:
563 AB, .323/.422/.533, 40 2B, 24 HR, 120 RBI, 37 SB, 6 CS
He finished third in the MVP balloting that year behind Ivan Rodriguez and Pedro Martinez (Manny Ramirez finished fourth). Those are impressive numbers at any position, but doing it as a second baseman is incredible. And, lest I forget, he won his 8th (out of an eventual 10) Gold Glove that year. Along with Omar Vizquel, Alomar formed the best double-play combination I’ve seen in my 20 years of watching baseball.
In 2001, Alomar finished 4th in MVP balloting, then fell off the face of the earth. I have no explanation as to Alomar’s freefall, and no I don’t think the trade had much of anything to do with it. Middle infielders tend not to age gracefully, but what happend to Alomar defies explanation. I guess you could compare Alomar’s career to that of Carlos Baerga, but even that really isn’t a good comp; Baerga was never that good a fielder, and Alomar was a much more patient hitter that Carlos was (and still is). The only parallels were that both were Indians, and both were dealt at exactly the right time. And both were traded to the New York Mets. My best guess is that he physically broke down all at once, including his reflexes and vision.
In my mind Alomar is as sure-fire a Hall of Famer as you can get. Assuming the writers look past the spitting incident and Roberto’s other flaws (which is a big assumption, considering who votes for the Hall), I don’t see how anyone can not vote for him based strictly on his playing career. He was the best second baseman of his era, he was a key contributor on two World Series champions, won 10 Gold Gloves, will finish with over 2700 hits, 1100 RBIs, finished in the MVP voting 5 times, was a 12-time All-Star, and finished his career with a .300/.371/.443 line. If Ryne Sandberg’s in (and deservedly so), Roberto Alomar should definitely be in.