Alomar A Hall Of Famer, But Not For Orioles

Posted on May 02, 2013

By Stan "The Fan" Charles

The Orioles teams of 1996 and '97 were teams fans fell in love with. I watched the excitement of the new breed of O's fan that sprung up in 2012, and can see similarities between '96 and '12. Both those teams followed long droughts in the Orioles' success.

But although the 2012 success was surprise to most people, 1996 was a different story. That season included a new manager in Davey Johnson, a new general manager in Pat Gillick and a host of new gamers and grinders named B.J. Surhoff, David Wells and Randy Myers that would be joined by the likes of Eddie Murray and Todd Zeile late during the season to propel the Orioles into serious contenders. One player left out of that group, Roberto Alomar, was an important ingredient added to the 1996 Orioles.

Look at his first season with the Orioles: 153 games played and a .328 batting average with 69 extra base-hits, 132 runs scored and 94 RBIs. Alomar added 17 steals in 23 attempts, and did I mention he had 90 walks, which brought his on-base percentage to .411, while his on-base plus slugging was .938, the highest of his career up to that point?

Alomar almost washed away all of his great work with the famous spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck on Sept. 27, 1996. But Alomar composed himself enough to hit a home run the next day, a hit that propelled the Orioles into the postseason.

It was a postseason that included getting past the Indians during the American League Division Series before succumbing to the Yankees during the American League Championship Series -- with the help of Jeffrey Maier during Game 1.

While Alomar came back the next season -- after a five-game suspension -- his play was much less impactful because of some injuries. He did hit .333, but he played in just 112 games, scoring 64 runs and knocking in 60 runs. His extra-base hits were down from 69 to 39, his OBP dropped to .390 and his OPS was .890.

By 1998, Johnson was gone, replaced by skipper Ray Miller. Gillick, although still on duty, was barely heard from as he waited out his time to get out of Baltimore. Alomar, for his part, was a shell of his old self. Embittered by a fine that Johnson had levied against him at the All-Star Break in '97 -- incidentally, it was Johnson's fine that ultimately cost him his job -- Alomar went through the motions for much of 1998, batting.282 with 51 extra base-hits, 86 runs scored and 56 RBIs, despite playing 147 games.

Alomar's swan-song season left an indelible impression on this observer. Even though he had caused the organization disrepute, been part of Johnson's departure and received support from owner Peter Angelos during the spitting incident, Alomar repaid the Orioles with what amounted to a sit-down season.

How do I know this? By watching Alomar play that season, and watching how fast Gillick let him go to Cleveland. Surprise, surprise, there he was in Cleveland from 1999-2001, back to his old self as pretty much the best player in the game.

With the Indians -- a team with a veritable murderers' row of Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez; Travis Fryman; Carlos Baerga; and Alomar's brother, Sandy -- Alomar hit .323, .310 and .336. His RBI totals in Cleveland were 120, 89 and 100. He played at least 155 games all three years; his extra-base hits totaled 67, 61 and 66; his on-base percentages were .422, .378 and .415; and his on-base plus slugging numbers were .955, .853 and .956.

True, as soon as he signed another free-agent contract with the Mets, he was never the same player. He played three nomadic years with the Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks to round out his career.

I have no problem with Alomar's enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But when the Orioles announced May 1 that Alomar would be inducted into the club's Hall of Fame, I did have a gripe with that.

Had he stayed longer in Baltimore and played the way he was capable of playing, Alomar would be deserving of a place in the Orioles Hall of Fame. But because he was so transient and didn't always give his best effort, I have a problem with his selection.

I am a voting member for the Orioles Hall, and I take that seriously. This one just rubs me the wrong way.

Posted May 2, 2013


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