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Ross Newhan: Roberto Alomar should be in the Hall of Fame

January 7, 2010 | 12:33 pm

Roberto Roberto Alomar was the best defensive second baseman I have seen in what is an ongoing career (now in semi-retirement) of almost 50 years of covering baseball.

I won’t call his failure to be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility a farce, but it was a misguided shame.

He was better than Ryne Sandberg, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005, and, from what longtime baseball people have told me, he was as good as, if not better, than two other second basemen elected to the Hall largely on their defensive ability: Bill Mazeroski and Joe Gordon.

I suspect that many voters did not support Alomar because of the 1996 spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck (to whom Alomar apologized and who has said he supports Alomar’s election) and because some Hall voters did not see Alomar play, missing his grace, range and arm, accruing to 10 Golden Gloves, the most since the award was started in 1957.

I do not expect everyone to agree with the eight players I checked on my Hall ballot. They were Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire, Edgar Martinez, Jack Morris and Lee Smith. I am pleased that Dawson was finally elected. However, I would not loudly dispute any voter who claims that Dawson’s Hall statistics, like those of Jim Rice, who was finally elected last year, were more fringe than overwhelming.

In fact, I had much stronger feelings about Alomar, Blyleven and Morris than I did Dawson.

Morris was simply the most dominant pitcher of the ‘80s, and dominating an era should be as much a Hall criterion as the fact that he fell short of 300 wins, going 254-186 while winning 17 or more games eight times and at his dominating best in the post-season.

Blyleven also fell short of 300 wins, and some voters have obviously held that against him, as well as his 250 losses with teams often shy of offensive support and the major league record 50 home runs he gave up in 1968. However, the curve-balling Blyleven won 287 games with those often-inept  teams, pitched 242 complete games in 23 seasons, threw 60 shutouts to rank ninth on that all-time list and struck out 3,701 batters, ranking fifth on the all-time list.

Blyleven fell five votes shy of reaching the 75% of votes he needed for election and will probably get them in his last two years of eligibility, as many voters seem to think statistics of retired players somehow change from year to year.

Alomar will certainly get the eight votes he needed while eligible for 14 more years. He was the complete player, a middle infielder who batted .300 in 17 seasons with 474 stolen bases, a .371 on-base percentage and .313 post-season average. It was his Gold Glove defense that set him apart, however, and those ballots which failed to include him were tarnished, to say the least.

-- Ross Newhan

Ross Newhan was the longtime national baseball writer for The Times and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Photo: Roberto Alomar talks to the press at his home in New York after votes for the 2010 Baseball Hall of Fame class were announced on Wednesday. Credit: Frank Franklin II / Associated Press