Eight votes shy, Alomar 'disappointed'
Infielder earns highest first-time percentage without election
NEW YORK -- Roberto Alomar missed his first ballot attempt at making the National Baseball Hall of Fame by eight votes, but the second baseman figures he'll join the group of 109 players elected by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2011."What can you do? It's out of my hands now," the 12-time All-Star told MLB.com when reached by telephone at his home in New York on Wednesday, shortly after the announcement that Andre Dawson was the sole electee this year. "I'm disappointed, but I feel good. Sometimes the writers have reasons not to vote for you, so you just have to deal with the situation. I had a lot of votes."
Right-hander Bert Blyleven finished just five votes short of the requisite total of 75 percent, and Alomar, considered one of the top second basemen of his era, registered the most votes in history for a first-year candidate without getting elected, having received 73.7 percent of the vote. Candidates who reach at least 70 percent always get in eventually.But there may be only one reason Alomar didn't make it this year, said his brother Sandy Alomar Jr., a six-time All-Star catcher and now a coach with the Indians -- the infamous 1996 incident in which the younger Alomar spat in the face of home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck. "What else can it be?" Sandy Alomar Jr. told MLB.com when reached at his home in Chicago. "I can't believe it, because everyone thought he was going to be in. These days, you can't drop the ball in any shape or form. If the writers are going to make an example out of Robbie, they'd better do it for everybody else. That was weak. "The spitting incident was ugly, but it was just a moment in the career of a guy who never did anything before or after. It's not like he's a guy who's been in and out of jail every week."
The spitting incident -- which took place during an escalating argument about a called third strike -- occurred in Toronto on Sept. 27, 1996, near the end of Alomar's first year with the Orioles. Alomar was suspended for five games, although he claimed at the time that Hirschbeck called him a derogatory name that caused the instant reaction.The two have long since moved past the incident, having shaken hands publicly at home plate before an Orioles game on April 22, 1997. And when Alomar didn't receive the congratulatory phone call from the Hall on Wednesday in the hours before the announcement, the first thing he did was reach out to Hirschbeck. "I called to tell him not to worry about me," Alomar said. "We have to keep moving on. He felt really sorry about it, and I didn't want him to feel that way. He thought that because of the incident I didn't make it. But enough is enough -- it's nobody's fault. We'll move on with life, and we're still friends." The Alomar brothers are the sons of former big league infielder and coach Sandy Alomar Sr., who was in San Diego on Wednesday, playing in a golf tournament. The family hails from Salinas, Puerto Rico, near the southern coast of the island, and if -- or when -- Alomar is ultimately elected, he'll be the first native of that Commonwealth to be enshrined by the BBWAA since Roberto Clemente was elected in a special 1973 vote that came just shortly after his death in a New Year's Eve plane crash. A switch-hitter, Alomar was a 10-time Gold Glove Award winner who batted .300 with 2,724 hits during a 17-year career that spanned seven teams. He came up with the Padres in 1988 and played three seasons in San Diego before being traded to the Blue Jays, with whom he played another five, winning the World Series in 1992 and '93. Alomar's numbers certainly measure favorably with those of Ryne Sandberg, the last second baseman elected by the BBWAA. Sandberg was voted into the Hall in 2005, his third year on the ballot. Sandberg, who played all but 13 games of his entire 16-season career with the Cubs, had 2,386 hits, 282 homers, 1,061 RBIs, 344 steals and a batting average of .285 in 2,164 games. Joe Morgan, certainly the standard among second basemen in the post-World War II era, had 2,517 hits, 268 homers and 1,133 RBIs in 2,649 games during his 22-year career, eight of which came with Cincinnati's great Big Red Machine. Morgan was elected by the BBWAA in 1990. Alomar's .984 fielding percentage is also right there with Sandberg's .989 and Morgan's .981 mark. That's why Alomar is confident he'll make up that eight-vote margin next year. "The spitting incident shouldn't be used as an excuse," Alomar said. "I have the [offensive and defensive numbers]. I was close enough. I just didn't have enough votes this year to get in."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.