Feb 3, 2016

MLB Hall of Famer & Short Time Mets Second Baseman: Roberto Alomar (2002-2003)

Roberto Velazquez Alomar was born on February 5th, 1968 in Ponce Puerto Rico. The six foot second baseman is the son of former Mets coach & fifteen year MLB veteran Sandy Alomar.

His brother Sandy Alomar Jr. played twenty big league seasons; San Diego Padres (1988-1989) Cleveland Indians (1990-2000) Chicago White Sox (2001-2004) Los Angeles Dodgers (2006) & New York Mets (for eight games in 2007). 

Roberto was originally signed by the San Diego Padres in 1985 as an amateur free agent. He won the California League batting title the following year batting .346. In 1987 he hit .319 at AA Wichita & then after nine games at AAA Las Vegas in 1988, he made it to the big leagues. 

He made his MLB debut with the San Diego Padres in 1988, on the same team as his brother Sandy Jr. & his father Sandy who was a coach at the time. In 1988 he finished 5th in the Rookie of the Year voting, batting .266 with 24 doubles 9 HRs 41 RBIs & 24 stolen bases.

The following year he batted .295 with 27 doubles 7 HRs 56 RBIs leading the league in sacrifice hits (17) plate appearances (702) & errors for second baseman (28). The next year he made the first of 12 straight All Star appearances but it would be his final season in San Diego. 

Prior to the 1991 season, Alomar was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays along with Joe Carter, for Fred McGriff & Tony Fernandez. It was a great trade for Toronto; as they would go on to win two straight World Series with Alomar & Carter as part of the core of their team. When the Sky Dome was in its prime, it was known as “The Eighth Wonder of the World” & Alomar lived in a luxury apartment overlooking the baseball field. 

Beginning in 1991 his first season in Toronto, he became one of the game's best second baseman winning six straight Gold Glove awards. He hit over .300 in four of five seasons in Toronto, with 24 or more doubles, while stealing 49 or more bases each year, except the strike shortened 1994 season.

He would come in second place in the AL stolen base department twice in that time period. In his career he was in the league's top ten in stolen bases seven times. In Toronto he scored over 100 runs while posting on base percentages of over .400% twice in those years. 
 Post Season: His first post season came in 1991 in a losing effort to the eventual World Champion Minnesota Twins. Alomat hit .474 with four RBIs in that series. The Jays returned as AL East Champs in 1992, beating the Oakland Athletics in six games. In that ALCS he batted .423, hitting two HRs driving in four more runs. 

In Game #3 he hit a 4th inning solo HR off former Met Ron Darling, in the Jays 7-5 victory. The next day in Game #4 he hit a two run HR to tie up the game in the top of the 9th inning, off ace closer Dennis Eckersley. The Blue Jays won the game with a Pat Borders sac fly in the 11th inning at Oakland. Alomar struggled in the World Series batting .208 overall, as the Blue Jays won their first Championship. 

 In 1993 the Jays returned to the playoffs, beating the Chicago White Sox in six games. Alomar drove in four runs, with two doubles going 7-24 (.292). Toronto went on to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, repeating as World Champions. Alomar hit .480 in the series driving in six runs, which was third best for the explosive Jays line up. 

Just before Christmas 1995, Alomar signed on with the Baltimore Orioles for three seasons. In his first season (1996) he batted .328 (7th in the AL) scoring 132 runs (3rd in the AL) with 22 HRs a career high 43 doubles (7th in the AL) & 94 RBIs helping Baltimore win the AL wild Card. 

Post Season: In the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, he batted .294 hitting . He drove in runs in the first two games & then was the hero in the clinching Game #4 at Cleveland. In the top of the 12th inning with the score tied 3-3, Alomar hit a HR off Jose Mesa, leading to the win as Randy Meyers closed out the Tribe in the bottom of the inning. He struggled in the ALCS batting just .217. 

Drama: In September 1996 in a game against his former Blue Jays team, Alomar got into a huge argument with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck after being called out on strikes. In the heat of anger he made a horrible decision to perform one of the most embarrassing stunts in baseball history by spitting in the face of Hirschbeck. He defended himself by using the race card, saying Hirschbeck used a racial slur. 

It seemed highly believable since Hirschbeck was never accused of anything like that before. Alomar went further saying Hirschbeck had been bitter since his son had died of the ALD disease.

At the point the umpire had to be restrained from literally tearing Alomar apart after the game in the club house. The league fined him $50,000, which Alomar donated to ADL research. The two made public apologies and made nice to each a year later at home plate before an Orioles game. 

The next season he missed time, playing in just 112 games hitting .333 with 14 HRs 23 doubles & 60 RBIs, as the Orioles finished first in the East under Davey Johnson. He batted .300 in the ALDS against the Seattle Mariners but just .182 against the eventual AL Champion Indians. In 1998 he played 147 games batting the lowest he had hit since his rookie year (.282). The next year he signed a three year deal with the Cleveland Indians, at the end of their mighty nineties era. 

Alomar would bat over .310 & steal over 30 bases every season in Cleveland. He hit twenty plus HRs, with 40 doubles & over 100 runs in two of those three years. He made three more All Star games & lead the league in runs scored (138) in 1999.

Alomar led the AL in fielding twice with Cleveland, in 1999 & 2001 while winning three more Gold Gloves. He got to another post season as well, losing to the Boston Red Sox in the 1999 ALDS, as he hit .368 with three RBIs. 

On December 11, 2001: in a highly publicized trade, Alomar was traded to the New York Mets with Mike Bacsik for Alex Escobar, Matt Lawton and Jerrod Riggan. He debuted on Opening Day at Shea Stadium to a big ovation, and he drove in two runs with an 8th inning bases loaded single in a 6-2 Mets win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

On April 10th his 8th inning HR off the Cubs Jeff Fasaro at Wrigley Field in Chicago tied up the game. Mike Piazza followed with another HR that proved to be the game winner. On April 14th he hit a pair of HRs driving in four runs against the Montreal Expos in a 6-4 Mets win at Shea Stadium.

 In May he hot just one HR & by the end of the month he was batting just .267 with 18 RBIs. In June he drove in just two runs, hit no HRs & watched his average fall to .260. 

Alomar never got his bat going at the plate & began to disappoint. The fans expected an All Star Gold Glover, who was going to hit well above .300 on his way to the Hall of Fame. Instead Alomar’s stay in New York, was very uneventful, as he never matched any of his career totals. 

In July he hit better, gathering up 13 multi hit games raising his average up to .280. On July 19th he hit a two run HR in Cincinnati Off Bruce Chen, in a 4-2 Mets win. The next day his 4th inning double tied up the game, on the way to an 8-7 Mets victory.

In mid August Alomar hit HRs in back to back games in Colorado, totaling five RBIs in the series. As the Mets road trip went to Florida, he drove in three runs in a 10-5 Mets win on August 27th. In September he hit just one HR & finished off a very disappointing season. 

In the Mets fifth place 2002 season, Alomar batted a career low (at that point) .266 with 11 HRs 24 doubles 53 RBIs 16 stolen bases & a .331 on base %. The RBIs were the worst total since his rookie season & an injury prone 1994 campaign. It was like Alomar forgot everything he knew about baseball, a star that had completely fallen & faded away. On the field he played a solid defense that went unnoticed; making eleven errors in 147 games good for a .983 fielding percentage. 

But New York expected the All Star player he had been and weren’t settling for less. The Shea boo birds let him have it, as well as the media. His stay in New York wasn't too long, seventy games into the 2003 season, he was sent away to the Chicago White Sox for Edward Almonte & Royce Ring. 

His first HR of that 2003 season came on May 9th, during a losing effort to the San Diego Padres. In mid May he drove in runs in six of seven games from May 16th to the 23rd. In June he slumped even more, hitting no HRs & driving in just three runs the whole month. On July 1st the trade was made, as Marco Scutaro & Danny Garcia took over at second base. 

Alomar played 67 games the rest of the season batting .253. He began 2004 as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but was later traded back to the White Sox. In 2005 he signed with the Tampa Rays but retired during Spring Training. but done by 2004 at the age of 36. 
 In his 17 year career, Alomar hit over .300 nine times finishing with a .300 average (202nd all time). He stole over 30 bases eight times in his career, stealing fifty or more twice, finishing with 474 steals (41st all time).

He had over 30 doubles seven times, & four seasons of forty plus doubles, finishing with 504 (54th all time). Alomar finished with 2724 hits, (58th all time) but never had a 200 hit season, although he had 190 or more hits three times. 

In his career he hit 80 triples, scored 1508 runs (67th all time) & drew 1032 walks (101 all time) with a .371 on base % (243rd all time). He hit 210 HRs with 1134 RBIs (183rd all time) 148 sac hits (180th all time).

Interestingly the only categories he ever led the league in were plate appearances & runs scored. In seven different post seasons he won two World Championships with Toronto, batting .313 with 4 HRs 17 doubles & 33 RBIs overall in 58 post season games. 

Defensively he won ten gold gloves, led the league in fielding three times, posting a .984 fielding % at second base (45th all time). He played 2320 games at the position (third all time) he made 6524 assists (7th all time) leading the league in that category y twice, & made 4458 put outs (15th all time) leading the league once in that category. He made 181 errors (79th all time) leading the league twice in that category while turning 1407 double plays.
  Hall of Fame: His overall stats did not get him into the Hall of Fame in 2010, although he thought he was a shoe in. Alomar broke down sobbing during an interview after the announcement.

No doubt the spitting incident, the never leading the league in any major category & the dismal play in his final seasons all had something to do with his not getting into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Alomar did get into Cooperstown on the second try in 2011. His uniform number was retired by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. 

Drama: In October 2010 his wife accused him of exposing her to HIV not telling her about his testing positive to the disease. It was the second suit of it's kind against him, the other coming from an ex-girlfriend. At the time of his marriage in 2009 he did prove negative to HIV.

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