Claim to fame: Alomar might have been the best second baseman of his generation. In his prime, he was certainly the best all-around player at his position, a franchise cornerstone and an integral member of many playoff teams. An All Star 12 of his 17 seasons and a 10-time Gold Glove winner, Alomar batted .300 lifetime with 2,724 hits, 210 home runs, and 474 stolen bases and a career WAR of 63.5. While he declined his final three seasons and quit at 37 in March 2005, just shy of 3,000 hits, his Cooperstown case would be certain were it not for some onerous personal issues.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Alomar fell just shy this past January in his first year on the Cooperstown ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America, receiving 73.7 percent of the vote. He’s on the ballot for the second time this year and will have 13 more tries should he again miss the 75 percent of the votes he needs for enshrinement.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? It’s going to be an interesting year for Hall voting. One can only guess how many candidates will fall short. My guess is Jeff Bagwell, Kevin Brown, Rafael Palmeiro, and Larry Walker all miss out, though Bagwell should get in soon, and I think Walker will eventually. Their numbers seen good enough, their images sufficiently clean, though players like them (All Stars whose careers were curtailed by injuries) rarely get in first ballot. Brown and Palmeiro’s best bet is the Veterans Committee. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, I doubt the writers will enshrine any player connected to steroids.
Alomar is a different case. I think he may have the best shot of any recent player at being enshrined this year, and it’s hard to name another second baseman from his era who could do everything he could as well as he did. Craig Biggio couldn’t hit for the same average, Lou Whitaker couldn’t hit for the same power, and Jeff Kent couldn’t run as fast. In his prime, from 1992 through 2001, Alomar hit better than .300 nine of 10 years and batted above .320 five times. He also played effectively in the postseason, hitting .313 lifetime with 4 HR and 33 RBI in 58 games.
The question is if the writers are willing to look past some things. There’s the late career decline, his underwhelming lifetime OPS+ of 116, and his negative defensive WAR, a sign his glove may have been overrated. Then there’s the incident from 1996 where he spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during a game. Hirschbeck reportedly called Alomar last year to wish him good luck with the Hall of Fame voting, though I suspect some writers still ding him for the episode.
More significantly, two women have sued Alomar, claiming he was HIV-positive and had unprotected sex with them. It’s not for me to speculate whether Alomar is guilty or innocent, though if it’s true, Alomar wouldn’t be the first HIV-positive athlete in a Hall of Fame, thanks to Magic Johnson. That being said, Magic went about his disclosure in November 1991 in an entirely different manner, becoming an advocate and eventually, a champion over his affliction. No one’s perfect, of course, but right now, Alomar looks far from a champion.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, Jack Morris, Joe Carter, John Smoltz, Keith Hernandez, Larry Walker, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Pete Browning, Rafael Palmeiro, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve Garvey, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Will Clark