Oooooooh, Roberto!


The baseball writers of America put their heads together recently and came up with this year’s list of inductees into baseball’s Hall of Fame. The HOF is a place that honours what should be “the best baseball players of all time”, but the players in the Hall are more accurately described as “the most popular baseball players among baseball writers”. For the most part, the lists are the same, but there are some players not in the Hall who should be, and some who are in but shouldn’t be. I wrote about the mystifying voting procedure last summer.

Anyway, the only player to get inducted this year is Andre Dawson, who I think is deserving. It took eight years for Dawson to get in, and when asked about that, he came up with this bit of brilliance: “If you’re a Hall of Famer you’re eventually going to get in“….mmmmmmkay. It’s actually the other way around, Andre – if you get in, then you’re a Hall of Famer. On the other hand, if you’re not a Hall of Famer and you get in, then you are a Hall of Famer. Reductio ad absurdum. QED.

Of course, it’s more interesting to talk about those who didn’t get in than those who did. Bert Blyleven missed again, this time only by five votes. I’m not sure about whether or not Blyleven deserves to be there. He was a very good pitcher, no question, but he only won 20 games once, and only made the All-Star team twice in a twenty-two year career. He also lost fifteen or more games seven times. Blyleven’s numbers remind me of Don Sutton – when Sutton was inducted into the HOF in 1998, many said that he didn’t deserve to be there. The argument was that Sutton was a very good pitcher for a very long time, but I don’t think that’s what the Hall of Fame is for. Sutton also won 20 games only once, and Blyleven looks the same – long career, good numbers with some great years, but never outstanding.

Roberto Alomar, on the other hand, was outstanding. He played in twelve consecutive All-Star games and won 10 Gold Glove awards. He only played in Toronto for five years (was it really only five?), but was one of the most talented players (arguably the most talented position player) ever to wear the uniform. He could hit, he took walks, didn’t strike out a lot, he could run, he could steal bases, and boy, could he play defense. Watching Roberto play second was just a joy – I remember going to games at Skydome with a bunch of friends and mimicking the Alberto shampoo commercials when he did something spectacular: “Oooooooh, Roberto!”. He only missed by eight votes – you might say he was within spitting distance of getting in (I’m afraid I can’t take credit for that one). I’d love to hear the voters who didn’t vote for him explain why not, but he’s pretty much a lock for next year.

As for the spitting incident itself, there are writers (Marty Noble is one such moron writer) who have admitted that they have not forgiven Alomar for that, although the umpire who was involved has. Look at the numbers people, look at the All-Star appearances, the Gold Gloves, how important he was to the teams he played for (if not for Roberto Alomar, the Jays would still be waiting for their first World Series), how he was the best second baseman in baseball for a decade or more, and how he lowered the ERAs of all kids of pitchers thanks to his defensive prowess. And after a sixteen year career of that calibre, you’re going to deny him Cooperstown because of a one-second loss of control? A loss of judgement? A brief, sort of periodic total breakdown of judgement? Some kind of judgement failure? Some kind of failure to, you know, have judgement? (Sorry, faded into a Tragically Hip thing there)

Other players who missed out: Barry Larkin, Lee Smith, Jack Morris, and Tim Raines. Larkin and Raines should definitely be there – I might even have put them in before Dawson. Smith isn’t a lock but I would support him, and Morris is in the same boat as Blyleven and Sutton – very good for a long time, but probably not HOF material. Having said that, I’d put Morris in before Blyleven or Sutton – and Sutton is already there. Oh, and Mark McGwire didn’t make it either, but he never will. Even without the whole steroid issue (which should be a non-issue since he took them before steroids were illegal in baseball), he just wasn’t a good enough all-around player to make the HOF. In case you’re curious, I think Bonds and Clemens should be in (they were both locks before they ever touched steroids), and McGwire, Sosa, and Rose should not.

In other baseball news, one of the best pitchers of the last twenty years retired on Wednesday. When Randy Johnson was on his game, he was right up there with Clemens and Maddux as the best in baseball. Nobody had a nastier stare, and the fact that he’s taller than half the NBA made him even more intimidating. Any season where a pitcher has 20 or more wins and 6 or fewer losses and had an ERA under 2.50 is accurately described as incredible – and Johnson had three such seasons. Ten All-Star games, five Cy Youngs, World Series co-MVP, even a no-hitter and a perfect game. And given the era in which he pitched and the fact that he was a power pitcher, it’s amazing that he was not even mentioned in the Mitchell Report, and I have never heard any suspicions of him using steroids. A guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer. Of course, I thought Roberto Alomar was too.

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