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Hallspotting: Roberto Alomar

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Hallspotting will look at candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame leading up to the 2010 election. The candidates will range from serious to semi-serious, and even if they don’t stand a chance, at least it’s a swell opportunity to remember any indelible marks their career may have made.

Like Jim Rice used to be, and Bert Blyleven still is, Roberto Alomar could be that generational tug-of-war player. I say this because Alomar was the best second baseman of his generation. But how Hallworthy is that moniker? Had he been a shortstop, Chuck Knoblauch would have been the greatest second baseman of Alomar’s generation.

It’s with this sentiment I bring up Alomar’s 10 Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. Not many players can brag about winning four of each of these moderately suspect honors, but it’s a tremendous group. A shorter list contains people who won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in the same season four times. Here’s who swept the Gold ‘n Silver more than four times since 1980, when the Silver Slugger was introduced:

Seven
Barry Bonds
Pudge Rodriguez

Six
Mike Schmidt
Ryne Sandberg
Ken Griffey, Jr.

Five

Kirby Puckett

All of those guys are either in the Hall or will belong someday, PED forgiveness permitting. Sandberg was somewhat of a borderline entrant, and he was the greatest second baseman of his generation.

Now, for the people with four such seasons:

Four
Andre Dawson
Dale Murphy
Alomar

Well, if it isn’t the Borderline Boys. Dawson is creeping ever so close toward the magical 75 percent mark, while Murphy, in his 11th year on the ballot, is losing support.

Alomar’s resume as a ballplayer, not a second baseman, is between 5 and 75 percent too. He was on two championship teams with the Blue Jays and enjoyed two MVP-like seasons for the Cleveland Indians. His 2,724 career hits are good enough for a career .300 batting average, and his 474 stolen bases add an element of speed to his game.

But the memories of Alomar aren’t exactly something you’d want to put on a plaque. He doesn’t have a reputation of being a great teammate, or one of being a guy who didn’t spit in an umpire’s face. In a 17-year career he wore out his welcome everywhere except for five years in Toronto (those Canadians are mighty hospitable, don’tcha know). Basically the likability quotient isn’t helping him.

I could wrestle for months on Alomar’s credentials, but fortunately I don’t have a vote so I won’t worry about it. The hunch says “no,” but the all-time roster from the ’90s seems incomplete without him.

poll by twiigs.com

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  • http://twitter.com/dexterfishmore Dexter Fishmore

    Matt, I’d actually vote for Craig Biggio as the starting second baseman on my All-’90s Team. On a WARP3 basis, Bigs outpaced Alomar, 67.3 to 55.5, for the decade. Admittedly, these numbers give the former a positional bump for playing catcher in 1990-91, but even if you back out those two seasons for both players, Bigs is the WARP3 winner by about the same margin (57.3 to 45.8).

    Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus looked at the second base position in a discussion of Jeff Kent’s Hall candidacy earlier this year. This shows how both Biggio and Alomar rank according to his JAWS evaluation system.

    Man, it’s hard to believe that Lou Whitaker’s candidacy couldn’t survive past the first round of balloting….

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Ah, yes, Biggio. In that case I should have said best American League second baseman. Case in point, Mr. Lou Whitaker.

    The WARP3 stats don’t lie, but if WARP3 was the final say, what about Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker?

    A list of all the second basemen who won MVPs:

    Charlie Gehringer (HOF)
    Joe Gordon (HOF, but barely)
    Frankie Frisch (HOF)
    Nellie Fox (HOF)
    Jackie Robinson (HOF)
    Joe Morgan (HOF, and he won it twice)
    Ryne Sandberg (HOF)
    Jeff Kent (who knows … if Alomar gets in he probably will too)
    Dustin Pedroia (I’ll be VERY interested to see if he keeps up the pace or if he’ll be a historical outlier)

    Even catchers have won more MVPs. So second base is either the most underrated position or the weakest. I’m inclined to say the latter, and if Alomar gets in, it’ll be because he was one of the greatest second basemen of the end of the 20th century, not one of the greatest players.

  • http://twitter.com/dexterfishmore Dexter Fishmore

    I agree that Kent’s and Alomar’s candidacies are probably linked, and as a predictive matter I think both will get in. If the BBWAA were to bless one but not the other, I’d guess they’d choose Kent, if only because “most home runs ever by a second baseman” is the sort of easily stated, counting-stat credential the writers seem to like. And as you note, Kent has an MVP award to his name.

    (Also, in comparing the dickish behavior that the two have in their respective pasts, Kent’s strikes me as more likely to be forgiven pursuant to “He’s just a gritty, old-school competitor” narrative. Anyone who thinks race would be an unstated factor in this regard wouldn’t get an argument from me.)

    I actually didn’t realize that Whitaker wasn’t in the Hall until I looked it up last night. His candidacy seems to have come along at just the wrong time – that is to say, right before the saberrevolution started making real inroads. If he could have just stayed on the ballot a few more years, he could have become a stathead cause celebre in the Blyleven-Raines mold.

  • Tony

    Alomar was better than Biggio. Biggio has the 3,000 hits but that’s only because he hung on at the end of his career when he was already done.

    Alomar has a higher career batting average, OBP, OPS, OPS+, more steals, and more run created/g. Oh and 10 gold gloves to Biggio’s 4.

    Alomar perfectly illustrates why there needs to be a set standard for voting people into the Hall of Fame. No one even knows if you judge guys as a whole or by position.

    As a whole Alomar might not get in (as his stats are comparable to a lot of borderline players and worse than some players who won’t be getting in like Mattingly — Yankee plug alert). But as a second basemen he easily gets in as one of the best statistically to play the position.

    Do you judge him against players already in — in which case compared to a guy like Mazerowski he obviously gets it — or do you ignore mistakes of the past and judge him on the ideal Hall of Fame statistics? And what are those?

    Does longevity matter? How about stats achieved only through longevity. Biggio’s 3000 hits mean about as much as Don Sutton’s 300 wins.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    “Alomar has a higher career batting average, OBP, OPS, OPS+, more steals, and more run created/g.”

    Biggio had more home runs and doubles*, and also played full seasons at catcher and center.

    (* – Biggio is fifth on the all-time career doubles list. Holy crap.)

    “Oh and 10 gold gloves to Biggio’s 4.”

    The 90s didn’t have many great second basemen. Alomar had Knoblauch as his competition. Biggio played at the same time as Ryne Sandberg, Pokey Reese, and Fernando Viña — all great defenders. The flawed numbers available in the 90s (range factor, fielding percentage) show Biggio and Alomar with equal defensive capabilities.

    I give the nod to Biggio for versatility and longevity. Those things count, even if statistics don’t show them.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Also, Jeff Kent’s dickish behavior included punching Barry Bonds. I will completely let that slide.

  • Tony

    OBP, OPS, and runs created are far more important statistics to actually winning games than home runs or doubles. Biggio was a good ball player, there is no question about that. He probably is even a low-tier Hall of Famer. But Alomar was more valuable to the teams he played for.

  • Kahron

    I have agree with Tony – I think Robbie’s skills/stats lent more to winning baseball. He was definitely a more instrumental player for his teams, specifically the Blue Jays – the catalyst. He was a big-time player when it counts in the playoffs. Biggio was definitely a nicer guy – and that does count for a lot with the media. And you could say well…eh played for some bad teams. But you stand them side to side, you gauge the numbers and impact…I don’t know if you can say Biggio was a better player.

  • http://lowposts.com/ ebooker

    I’m positive he’ll make it in..