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Blue Jays Birthdays: Roberto Alomar

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Roberto Alomar turns 56 today.

It is hard to know what to say about Roberto. He was a terrific player. He is also on MLB’s ineligible list because of an allegation of sexual misconduct, which MLB investigated and found credible. The last I heard, the woman isn’t planning to sue or bring criminal charges. People argue that if something that wasn’t proven in a court of law, we shouldn’t believe it happened. I totally reject that. I can understand why a woman wouldn’t want to press charges. The defense in a lot of these cases is to shift the blame to the woman, to make it as painful as possible on her. I can understand why someone would choose not to go through that.

There is no doubt in my mind or in the judgement of MLB that he did wrong.

He’s an example of how the character clause of the Hall of Fame vote is so complicated. When he played, there weren’t many black marks against his character (if you ignore the spitting incident).

My question is, should the Hall be able to remove a player if it is found that he wouldn’t have been elected if his true character had been known at the time of the vote?

Pete Rose is on the ineligible list and hasn’t been on the Hall of Fame ballot. I agree that he should be on the ineligible list, but the timing is the issue. He was kept off the ballot because he was found to be ineligible before his name made it to the ballot. Roberto goes on the ineligible list after he’s elected, so he’s in. It seems unfair.

Of course, there are people in the Hall who, I’m not sure the polite way to say this, have an incredible lack of character (what I want to say is some Hall of Famers are asshats). But then it would be hard to kick someone out of the Hall who had been elected 75 years ago when ‘character’ (or asshat) was defined differently than it is today.

If Alomar were up for election this year, he wouldn’t get 75% of the vote.

As a player, he was one of the best.

In five seasons with the Blue Jays, he hit .307/.382/.451 with 206 stolen bases. And he had a flair for spectacular defensive play.

In his 17-year MLB career, he hit .300/.371/.443 with 210 home runs, 474 stolen bases and a 67.0 bWAR. He made 12 All-Star teams, won 10 Gold Gloves and received MVP votes 7 times.

And he was terrific in the playoffs for us. He was MVP in the 1992 ALCS and could have been MVP in the 1993 World Series (but Paul Molitor was pretty good, too). He hit .372/.452/.492 in the playoffs with 18 stolen bases (caught twice).

From the Jays, he went to the Orioles (and made the playoffs twice), Cleveland (making the playoffs twice), Mets, White Sox, Diamondbacks, and White Sox again.

He seemed to age quickly. At age 33, he put up a 7.3 bWAR with Cleveland. He never had a WAR above 1 after that.

The ‘spitting incident’ mentioned above happened when he was with the Orioles. From an SBNation post:

It was the first inning and his Baltimore Orioles were playing in Toronto. Umpire John Hirschbeck struck out Roberto on a called third strike. Alomar went ballistic, firing a series of brutal insults before manager Davey Johnson could interfere. Alomar, who was ejected by that point, suddenly spit right at Hirschbeck’s face, prompting further bickering before the second baseman could be hauled away.

Alomar later said he was prompted to spit on Hirschbeck when the ump began using racial insults, particularly one about his mother. Hirschbeck denied this claim, saying that if he used any vulgar language it was after he was spit on, not before. Davey Johnson never divulged what he heard at home plate, only saying, ‘’I think they’re both guilty.”

Alomar instantly became a media pariah for spitting at an authority figure. His post-game comments incited even more criticism. ‘’I used to respect him a lot. He had a problem with his family when his son died — I know that’s something real tough in life — but after that he just changed, personality-wise. He just got real bitter.’’

Hirschbeck’s eight-year old son, John Drew, died in 1993 from ALD, a rare condition that causes inflammation of the brain. His nine-year old son, Michael, was diagnosed with the same inflection. When Hirschbeck got wind of Alomar’s comments the next day, he rushed into the Oriole’s clubhouse shouting that he wanted to “kill” him. The other umpires had to race in and restrain him.

AL President Gene Budig suspended Alomar for five games, but Roberto appealed the suspension and was allowed to play in his team’s final two regular season games. Hirschbeck took the next day off and watched in dismay as Alomar hit the game-winning home run in the tenth inning, officially giving Baltimore their first playoff berth in a dozen years.

That Alomar brought up Hirschbeck’s dead son is unforgivable to me. Spitting on someone is scummy, but at least that was in the heat of the moment. To later alibi it by bringing up something as horrible as a child dying seems just beyond the pale.

Roberto was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011, his second time on the ballot. He went in wearing a Jays cap.

I have great memories of his play and try to separate that from what we have learned. Admiring his ability as a ball player doesn’t mean I have to admire him as a person.