No. 82: Roberto Alomar

Sandy Alomar Sr. was a player with some skills. He could field (he played second base but had almost 200 games at shortstop), he could run a bit and and he could bunt when called upon. His weakness, if you will, was that he could not hit a lick. Every generation seems to have a handful of these kinds of middle infielders who can’t hit at all but who for some reason or another — defense, base running, general leadership or something unexplained — appeal to teams enough to get a bunch of plate appearances in the big leagues.

In recent years, these have been Cesar Izturis and Neifi Perez and Rey Sanchez.

In the the 1970s and 1980s, you had Ozzie Guillen, Alfredo Griffin, Tim Foli, Mark Belanger and Roger Metzger.

In the 1960s, you had Sandy Alomar and Ed Brinkman and others.

Alomar was just 5-foot-9, 140 pounds and he managed to get 5,160 plate appearances in a 15-year career, no mean feat with a career 69 OPS+ .He hit .245/.290/.288 in his career. His .288 slugging percentage ties Bud Harrelson for the second lowest of any player since Deadball with 5,000 plate appearances (Belanger slugged .280). But teams kept picking him up anyway. For his defense. For his speed. For his charisma. He got more than 500 plate appearances for the 1975 Yankees. He LED OFF for the 1970 and 1971 Angels and led the league in plate appearances both years. One year he hit .251/.302/.293 and made the All-Star team.

But, of course, his biggest contribution to baseball was being the father of All-Star catcher Sandy Alomar and Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar.

Aren’t you fascinated by baseball fathers and sons? There have been seven father-son combos in baseball history where the both made the All-Star team at the same position (counting all three outfield spots as the same). In the outfield, you have Felipe and Moises Alou, the Ken Griffeys, the Gary Matthewses and Bobby and Barry Bonds, At first base, you have Cecil and Prince Fielder. At catcher, you have Randy and Todd Hundley.

And then, at second base, all alone, you have Sandy and Roberto Alomar. That must be some feeling, not only seeing your son succeed at your sport, but succeed at your position. Of the group, you would have to say other fathers and sons seem more similar than Sandy and Roberto Alomar. The most similar is probably Bobby and Barry Bonds — both extraordinary speed-power players who won Gold Gloves in the outfield (Bobby in right, Barry in left) and were pretty deeply disliked by many people around the game. Cecil and Prince Fielder share a lot too — both heavy first baseman with great power. It’s interesting that in both cases, the father hit right-handed, the son left-handed.

Robbie Alomar was a much better player than Sandy, though much of this simply came down to physical tools. Robbie was bigger than his dad (6-foot, 184 pounds), probably a bit faster and definitely much stronger. Sandy hit 13 home runs in his career. Robbie hit more than 13 home runs in seven different seasons. But once you look past Robbie’s clear physical advantages (he also played in significantly better hitting environment) there really are striking similarities. Sandy was a switch-hitter and he taught Robbie to switch hit. Sandy stole more than 200 bases in his career, Robbie stole almost 500. Sandy was a great bunter. Robbie was one of the best bunters of his time, perhaps any time. It’s pretty clear who taught Robbie Alomar how to play baseball.

And it was there from the start. At age 20, Roberto Alomar played a full season for the San Diego Padres, posting an above average OPS+ while playing sparkling defense. He was more or less a finished product already. He would get better with experience, but right away he was a good Major League Baseball player. I wonder how much being around clubhouses all his life helped that. I wonder how much being prepared by a Major League father (and a Major League brother) helped.

Here’s something: Alomar’s career statistics are shockingly similar to Barry Larkin’s.

Larkin: .295/.371/.444, OPS+ 116
Alomar: .300/.371/.443, OPS+ 116

Larkin score 379 bases in 456 tries (83%). Alomar stole 474 bases in 588 tries (81%).

You’re just not going to find two players much closer than that. Alomar won 10 Gold Gloves at second while Larkin won three at shortstop … but the defensive numbers suggest Alomar was a bit overrated as a fielder, Larkin a bit underrated.

So, how do you separate the two? WAR gives Larkin a four-win edge because of defense. But I chose Alomar because of his presence. I don’t mean “presence” in the vague fourth definition of the word (impressive manner) but in the most obvious one (being present in a place or thing).

Larkin had four seasons with 150-plus games, Alomar had eight. Alomar, in a shorter career by years, played in 200 more games. This allowed Alomar to have a bigger impact on specific seasons. Alomar created more than 100 runs for the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays, and they both won the World Series. He created 139 runs for the 1999 Indians (who won 97 games and made the playoffs) and 138 runs for the 2001 Indians (who won 91 games and made the playoffs too).

In all, Robbie Alomar created 100 runs seven different times, and all seven teams won at least 88 games, five of those teams made the playoffs. Larkin created 100 runs four times. In an imaginary scenario, where I know going in that both players will be healthy all year and play at least for 155 games, I might take Larkin. But imaginary scenarios are just that. And one of the most underrated talents in baseball, and probably in life, is showing up.

64 thoughts on “No. 82: Roberto Alomar

  1. hunsecker

    Bill James’s entry for Alomar in the 1990 Baseball Book (the short-lived successor to the Abstracts) is classic. Alomar was coming off his sophomore season, a pretty good one that I don’t especially remember attracting a whole lot of attention: .295/.347/.376, 35 extra-base hits, 50+ BB, 40+ SB. It was a pitcher’s year, and Alomar was a 21-year-old second baseman–you had to give those numbers some context, and James did.

    “This is my number one tip for this guide: GET ROBERTO ALOMAR. No matter who you are—rotisserie, card collector, whatever; get Alomar.”

    He then went through a list of reasons he was so high on him (including talk of his support network, which may have been somewhere in the back of Joe’s mind when he wrote the entry above), concluding with this: “So I think Alomar’s going to be a great player, one of the best players of the 1990s.”

    It seems obvious in hindsight, but I don’t think it was then. Anyway, I was pretty excited when Toronto (my team) traded for Alomar the next year, even though the Jays were losing McGriff and Fernandez. All credit to James.

    Oh–if you’re a card collector stuck with 100 Alomar rookie cards, apologies.

    Reply
  2. johnq11

    It’s pretty shocking that Alomar won 10 gold gloves at second base. He probably didn’t deserve any of them. On the contrary he was a below average fielder for most of his career. He’s easily the most overrated defensive second base in baseball history. He’s probably in the top 5 or so of the most overrated fielders in baseball history. Jeter is the #1 most overrated defensive player by a huge margin. Dave Winfield is probably #2 as the most overrated defensive player in baseball history.

    I guess they just started giving Alomar gold gloves because there wasn’t any real stand-out defensive second baseman in the American League during the 1990′s. You had guys like Scott Fletcher and Billy Ripken who were really good defensively. Chuck Knoblauch was actually a pretty good defensive 2b on the Twins. Tony Phillips was really good but he played a bunch of different positions. It’s so strange because you had so many great defensive 2b in the A.L. during the 70′s-80′s with Bobby Grich, Frank White, Willie Randolph and Lou Whitaker.

    Alomar is also a bit odd that he moved around so much during his prime years: Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles and Indians. Usually players of that caliber play on 1-2 teams at most during their prime.

    Also, what the hell happened when he went to the Mets in 2002??? He went from being an all star MVP candidate in 2001 to an absolute zero with the Mets. Did they ever explain what happened? Was there an injury? And what is it with the Mets when they get all-star MVP type players like George Foster, Bobby Bonilla or Roberto Alomar??? Foster was another guy whose career just fell off a cliff when he came to the Mets. Is it the media attention that overwhelms these players??

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    1. Mark Audran

      Haha, some clowns going back and reviewing the tape of the 92 Blue Jays to get a UZR rating for Alomar is the dumbest thing in baseball statistics. Assigning Alomar a poor score because of this and the questionable video they had to work with is also dumb. The fact that the data isn’t released to the public is also stupid for review. All of this nonsense leads to people authoritatively declaring him to be one of the most overrated defensive player in history.

      How UZR is calculated is deeply, deeply flawed. It is a decent stab at it, I guess, but there are problems at every single step if you’re trying to go back in time and assign numbers retroactively. I really hate that fans are just accepting UZR as hard science when it’s a series of deeply flawed, constantly-changing judgment calls that don’t necessarily make sense to begin with.

      There wasn’t a single person alive who thought Alomar was killing his teams on defense when he played. UZR and UZR/150 are dumb.

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      1. johnq11

        I never mentioned “UZR” so I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about??

        The gold glove is the most overrated award in baseball. It’s not based on anything other than opinion and even at the the voters don’t take it seriously. And then a lot of it deals with timing. If Alomar played in the A.L. in the 70′s-80′s he wouldn’t have won anything.

        There weren’t really any dominant defensive 2b in the A.L. during the early 90′s. Alomar was a great offensive player so they gave it to him in 1992. He made some flashy plays in the World Series so the myth grew and then they kept giving him the award every year.

        Hitting plays into the gold glove which it shouldn’t. The voters are more likely to vote for an average fielder or slightly above average fielder who’s a great hitter than an average hitter who’s a very good or great fielder. Steve Garvey won a bunch of gold gloves that he didn’t deserve. Bret Boone won a bunch of gold gloves he didn’t deserves.

        Then there are odd peculiarities about the results. Cal Ripken is one of the greatest fielders in MLB history and he only won 2 gold gloves. Willie Ranolph is one of the greatest fielding 2b in MLB history and he never won a gold glove. Graig Nettles is one of the greatest fielding 3b in baseball history and he only won 2. Bill Russell was one of the best fielding SS in the National League during the 70′s-80′s and he never won a GG. Scott Fletcher was one of the best fielding SS in the 1980′s he never won a GG. Pete O’brien was the best fielding 1b in the American League during the 1980′s and he never won a GG.

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        1. Mark Audran

          Sorry about that! I agree with you that gold gloves are very weird when it comes to who gets them. I then went off into the weeds on UZR, but yeah, it seems like there is no rhyme or reason as to who the GG goes to.

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          1. Richard Aronson

            I agree that Gold Glove was often heavily influenced by hitting, All-Star Game appearances, past GG wins, and of course the competition in the league at the time. That said, Roberto had a reliable glove (five seasons with a fielding percentage .990 or above when the league average for his career was .981), and when with Baltimore at least he had some apparently good range years per bRef.

          2. johnq11

            No need to apologize.

            I remember Bill James had an article about about 20 years ago about Gold Glove voting biases and patterns. I’m going by memory, so I think it went something like this.

            *It takes a few years for a really good player to establish himself as a good fielder so a good fielder usually looses out on a few early in his career and then wins a few late in his career when he doesn’t deserve the award.

            *Some young players have great fielding early years and then actually become rather awful yet still continue to win the award.

            *Although it’s a defensive award offense matters.

            *An above average fielding/very good hitter is more likely to win the award than a very good fielding/average hitter.

            *Infielder range is underrated and flashy plays are overrated.

            *Outfielder throwing arms are overrated and outfielders range is underrated.

        2. Richard Aronson

          I like Bill Russell, but in 14 years as a major league shortstop he had only five where his RF/9 was better than the NL average, four where his fielding percentage was better, and his career numbers were well below average for both. Russell didn’t compare with Maury Wills, and the best fielding shortstop I saw with the Dodgers was the final season of Marc Belanger, who I thought fielded well enough to put Ropes on the bench (and IIRC frequently replaced Russell for defensive purposes). Scully used to talk about Russell’s getting errors on balls other players didn’t reach, but aside from a very strong arm on backhand plays, and perhaps going back for loopers, Russell was IMO a below average fielder. Plus there were much better shortstops around.

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          1. bellweather22

            Russell had good range and a good arm. He was a converted outfielder who played roughly 13 full seasons at SS. 9 of those years he made more than 20 errors. 5 times he had more than 30 errors. When I saw Russell being used as a comparison for excellent fielding, I almost fell out of my chair. He wasn’t ever a great fielder, but did have a few good ones. He unfortunately was very inconsistent and sometimes unreliable at SS.

    2. hunsecker

      I think we all agree about the erratic and sometimes inexplicable GG voting.

      One guy who gives me pause when it comes to wholly trusting defensive metrics as they currently stand is Roberto Clemente. In his 18 seasons, three times he had a dWAR between 2.0-3.0. If you were to eliminate those three seasons, for the rest of the career he totals a dWAR of 5.4; for 15 seasons, he was just slightly better than neutral.

      Maybe I’m not presenting that correctly—I’d be happy to hear from someone who understands dWAR better than I do. But again, that doesn’t make sense in terms of everything I’ve ever read about Clemente. (I only saw him play in the ’71 Series, when I was 10.)

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      1. Adam

        It’s because dWAR is adjusting for position here. RF is considered an easier position to fill so his dWAR isn’t that impressive (you generally have to be very very good to get a positive rating). If you look at his raw TZ rating, it confirms the belief that Clemente was the greatest defense RF ever.

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      2. johnq11

        hunsecker,

        dwar is a rather small number overall in a player’s season so a 1.0 dwar is actually very good. Clemente had 6 seasons between .9-1.7 dwar. A 1+war usually makes you among the top 20 defensive players in baseball. I didn’t check but I would imagine he was the best fielding right fielder in those six seasons. He was probably among the top 2-3 defensive outfielders in those 6 seasons.

        A 2.0 dwar in a season is outstanding. Usually a 2.0+ dwar makes you one of the top 5 defense players in baseball. Those seasons that Clemente had a plus 2+dwar he was the 3rd best defensive player in baseball twice and the 4th best player once. That’s quite an accomplishment considering Clemente was a right fielder.

        Clemente had something like 12.1 dwar in his career which is the most by any right fielder in baseball history.

        Any war number is “above replacement” not “above neutral.” Think about it in terms of a fictional Quadruple-A player that anybody can pick up off the waiver wire.

        Next, look at the column in a players stat page on BR reference called “Rfield.” This column represents how many runs a fielder has prevented above an average fielder. Clemente never had a season in which his “Rfield” was below average. His two worst seasons with the glove were 1961 & 1963 when he was “average” or a “0″ in the Rfield column. If a player has double digits in Rfield, it represents that this player is a very good defensive player.

        I think Clemente had about 205 Rfield which is among the top 10 defense players in baseball history. In retrospect you can really question why Clemente was playing right field instead of Center Field all of his career. I know they had Bill Virdon who was probably established when Clemente came to the Pirates but hindsight Clemente really should have been the center-fielder.

        Clemente is only one of 4 corner outfielders to have 150 Rfield or more.

        Clemente, Bonds, Kaline and Brian Jordan.

        Brian Jordan’s case is interesting. Brian Jordan was still deciding whether to play football or baseball in the early 90′s. Ray Lankford was the regular center fielder so Jordan was the part time right fielder. When Jordan finally decided to play baseball full time in 1995, Lankford was firmly ensconced as the center fielder so Jordan stayed in right even though he was the far superior defensive outfielder.

        Jordan then left for the Braves who had Andruw Jones so he wasn’t going to center. That 1999 Brave outfield of Jones, Jordan and Gerald Williams might be the best defensive outfield in MLB history.

        War has another component in that it subtracts or adds value depending on the difficulty of the position. You can see a player’s deduction or addition in the Rpos column.

        Short Stops & Catchers, get the largest bonus.

        Second Basemen get smaller bonus

        Third Basemen get a small bonus

        Center Fielders get a very slight deduction.

        Right Fielders a slightly larger deduction.

        Left Fielders & First Basemen get larger deductions.

        Dh’s get the largest deduction.

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    3. Chris M

      Honest question, not trying to troll, but how old are you? Were you watching baseball in the 90′s?

      Alomar was ALWAYS on “Web Gems” and whatnot. When he paired with Omar Vizquel people were talking about them as the best middle infield ever. Now we’ve learned that making web gems doesn’t necessarily make one a great fielder, and maybe Alomar was overrated, but at the time nobody thought he didn’t deserve the Gold Gloves. It wasn’t like with Jeter where everyone but the voters knew he didn’t deserve it

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      1. johnq11

        How old am I? Oh man. You don’t like my conclusions that differ from your established views so you go for an ad hominem attack. I’m 47, I’ve been following baseball since 1973.

        I don’t even understand your point in the second paragraph because you seem to be agreeing with me. Yes, appearing on “Web Gems” doesn’t make someone a great fielder.

        I came up with a probable scenario as to what happened in 1991 & 1992:

        There was no dominant defensive 2b in the A.L. during the early 1990′s. Mike Gallego was the best defensive 2b at the time but he was a weak hitting 2b who was good defensively but not great. Lou Whitaker was on his way out but he underrated at this time defensively and offensively. Chuck Knoblauch was a rookie.

        Alomar was the second best offensive 2b in the A.L. and a young player with a penchant for flashy plays even though he was at best an average fielder. He wins the award in 1991.

        There is an incumbent bias in the GG.

        Scott Fletcher and Billy Ripken were good A.L. defensive 2b in the early 90′s but were not good hitters. The Gold Glove is a defensive award biased towards average fielding/great hitters. Fletcher and Ripken weren’t full time players which also hurts slightly.

        Tony Phillips was a good A.L. defensive 2b but played multiple positions.

        Chuck Knaublach was in his second year and just establishing himself as a good defensive second basemen with the Twins.

        Roberto Alomar was the best offensive second basemen in the A.L. and was establishing himself as the best offensive 2b in the American League. He was an average/slightly below average fielder who made some flashy plays so he was given the award. He goes on to make some flashy plays in the World Series which further created a impression that he was a great fielder.

        There’s a built in bias towards the incumbent in gold glove voting. Alomar was not only the best offensive 2b in the majors in 1993, he was one of the best offensive players in the majors in 1993. He was also on the WS champions again so he won the award in 1993 even though his defense had regressed to below average.

        He won the award until 1996 even though he was a below average defensive 2b but at the same time he was the best offensive 2b in the majors.

        He didn’t win in 1997 partly because of voter fatigue (Alomar had won 5 years in a row) and partly because they wanted to give the award to Chuck Knoblauch who probably deserved it in 1996 as well.

        Knoblauch goes to the Yankees in 1998 and his defense skills fall completely apart for some bizarre reason.

        People also think that defense skills are static from year to year. Hitting skills results aren’t static from year to year so It’s somewhat odd that we assume that fielding stays consistent.

        Anyway, Knoblauch has a drastic defense fall in 1998 and Alomar actually has his best season with the glove in 1998. But the best defense 2b in the A.L. in 1998 was rookie Miguel Cairo with the expansion Devil Rays. The voters weren’t going to give a weak hitting rookie on an expansion team the gold glove.

        Damion Easley probably should have won the vote. He was an all star and the second best defensive A.L. second baseman and won the silver slugger in 1998.

        Alomar didn’t have a very good hitting season but Easley wasn’t an established player and Alomar had a good year with the glove.

        Randy Velarde was the best fielding 2b in A.L. in 1999 and had a very good offensive season but he wasn’t established and was traded mid season. Alomar went to Cleveland and had a great year with the bat and was good defensively and was teamed up with Omar Vizquel and he was the incumbent.

        Damion Easley was the best fielding 2b in the majors and should have won the A.L. GG. But Alomar was the established incumbent all star who had a good season with the glove and another great season with the bat.

        Alomar’s defense regressed in 2001 and he was slightly below average but he had a fantastic year with the bat. Bret Boone should have won the GG in 2001.

        Alomar’s career both offensively and defensively would fall off a cliff with the Mets.

        Reply
        1. Spencer

          Hey Mr defensive (Johnq11),

          He asked how old you were because you seemingly didn’t remember WHY Alomar won all those gold gloves, all the highlight plays and web gems.

          I genuinely had the same thought. It’s not an attack. I thought as well that you may have been too young to remember.

          Fwiw I agree with your conclusion…

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    4. KHAZAD

      Alomar isn’t the most overrated defensive second baseman, especially when it comes to gold gloves. That honor goes to Ryne Sandberg, and it is not even a little bit close.

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      1. johnq11

        And you’re basing this on what exactly?

        Sandberg was a much better fielder than Alomar and it’s not even close.

        Sandberg probably didn’t deserve 9 gold gloves but he probably deserved 4-5 of them.

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        1. Guess

          @johnq11 get off your fucking high horse. I asked you the same question about Alomar and you never replied. Seems like you don’t actually base your opinions on things other than your opinions, so settle the eff down.

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  3. hunsecker

    I think it’s fair to say Alomar’s defense is controversial; I personally don’t feel it’s fair to say so definitively that he was overrated. Yes, I’m biased by the fact I watched him regularly for four or five years; I quickly slide into one of those “But you had to see him play” arguments that are so anathema to clear-eyed sabermetric evaluation. I understand that. But this is one instance where the numbers—he’s got a negative dWAR for four of his five years in Toronto—just don’t jibe with what I saw. I’m not saying the numbers are wrong. I’m saying…defensive statistics are still developing, and I’m reluctant to say, “Oh, okay—Alomar was clearly below average” with any certainty. The players around him, the pitching staff, turf…maybe there are things there that either aren’t factored in yet, or aren’t factored in wholly accurately yet.

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  4. Karyn

    Tangential to this, I recall reading in James’ Historical Abstract about what he called ‘baseball families’, and how to rate them. He was using Win Shares, of course, and his method was to count the player with the highest WS once, the next highest player twice, and on down the line. Such as, he had Roberto with 286 WS, Sandy Sr. with 104, and Sandy Jr at 88. That meant 286 + 2(104) + 3(88) = 758 Family Score, good for ninth place.

    Because I’m unemployed, and a big dork, I redid this recently, using James’ system with bWAR. I did not count players with 0 or negative WAR. With this method, the Bondses win going away (277.7), followed by the Alous, Boones and the DiMaggios (222.3, 200.4 and 193.2). The Alomars have 125.2, good for . . . ninth place.

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      1. Karyn

        The Griffeys are 7th with 152.7 Score. The Alous have five scoring players, which really makes things add up; I counted cousins, too. Felipe, Moises, Matty, Mel (Rojas), and Jesus. Having more than two guys with decent-to-solid careers is the way to roll in this (useless) metric.

        Alous:

        42.1 + 2(39.7) + 3(13.3) + 4(6.6) + 5(.9) = 222.3

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  5. Adam S

    This is the first player who I disagree with. It’s hard to have too strong an opinion without a list to compare, but Alomar isn’t one of the top 100 players of all time so 82 is too high. If he was as good defensively as perceived, for sure a top 100 player. He’s an average defensive 2B — not just the metrics but what I saw watching him for many years. There were a lot of balls he didn’t get to despite being flashy.

    His bWAR is 84th and his fWAR is 92 among position players only. There have to be A LOT of guys statistically better than him, including some much better, for Alomar to “jump” to 82nd all time.

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  6. 18thStreet

    If you ever find yourself at a Barnes and Noble, you’ll find the bookshelves polluted with this category of baseball book. None of them are half as good as this.

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  7. Richard Aronson

    Couple of typos:

    The most similar is probably Bobby and Barry Bonds s/b are probably

    Larkin score 379 bases s/b stole.

    But there imaginary scenarios are just that. s/b these imaginary etc.

    What 18thStreet wrote: you could probably turn these into a book (might need to add another 50-100 players to get the length right) and the sooner errors are fixed, the likelier errors are to be fixed.

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  8. Evan

    I’m really starting to wish Ichiro was placed higher on this list. Even with his low walks total, I think a theoretical US career from 20 years old onward would warrant it. Somewhere around 70 – 80 feels right. But other than that, I agree. Joe is giving us the best month of blog reading I can remember.

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        1. Which hunt?

          Oh, right. I remember that! If true that is way worse in the character clause department than Clemens shooting pure ape adrenaline into his posterior every fifth day. Those allegations seemed to quietly go away if I remember correctly. Oh, the perils/privilege of being a wealthy successful athlete. That’s truly monstrous behavior, but we’ll probably never know the truth of that one.

          Reply
    1. Cathead

      I thought it was interesting that Joe did not mention the spitting incident in his article. It was a singular event in his career and colors any perception of him.

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  9. Crafty Veteran

    I love your writing and look for any chance to read anything you write. I also follow you on Twitter. This list is very tedious reading.

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        1. Cuban X Senators

          Oh, BR HOF was a frustrating exercise in realizing how difficult consensus is.

          This is all lagniappe; no frustration, just little bundles of stuff unexpected cogitations from someone whose thoughts I enjoy.

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  10. bellweather22

    I had season tickets for the Angels and saw a lot of Sandy Alomar Sr. He had no power, but I remember him hitting two HRs during a warm doubleheader… I think against the Senators. The ball was really carrying, which was obvious with Alomar getting HRs. It was like a pitcher Homering. He was a beloved player on the team, which had little talent, so I actually wouldn’t have guessed that his advanced stats were so poor.

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    1. Karyn

      When I was but a pup, I loved watching the Braves with my Pop. I recall Skip Carey and the guys gently razzing Rafael Belliard for his distinct lack of power–and also his free-swinging ways. He would always–always–swing at the first pitch. He had two HRs in his career, one with the Pirates and one with Atlanta. He slugged .259 lifetime (.038 ISO), and was worth 0.1 bWAR for his 17-year career.

      At the time, I loved the guy. I thought that every team needed a Raffy–someone to steal a base, pinch run, play late-inning defense, lay down a bunt, etc. The ultimate ‘little things’ player. Of course, I was young and the stats were old. He was the definition of a replacement player. But he made $5 million in 80s-90s dollars, and he always looked like he loved playing.

      Reply
      1. hunsecker

        Nicely said. To be a great baseball writer in 2013, I think you have to be conversant in newer stats, and not waste any time trying to argue that, I don’t know, Jack Morris was a better pitcher than David Cone. I can even accept an argument that Morris should be in the HOF, if you present it carefully and reasonably and don’t try to sell things that demonstrably aren’t true as being true. Having said that, I wish that some of the more over-zealous new-stat folks who post on comment threads (and I’m not referring to anyone here—I find Joe’s readers generally very sane, ditto High Heat Stats) could get more of the previous comment into their way of looking at baseball. My ideal writer: someone who understands and appreciates WAR inside-out, but who, if someone knocks in 160 runs next year, isn’t going to greet that with “LOL RBI” or a lecture on how meaningless a stat it is. He/she’ll write, “160 RBI, wow” and move on. That’s why I gravitate to Joe, James (still), David Schoenfield, Tom Verducci, etc.

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  11. Herb Smith

    And I agree wholeheartedly with the above two posts. To be a baseball fan is to be enamored of not just the stars, but also the “little guys that could.” The typical fan can certainly relate more to a slick-fielding/no-hit SS than he can to an A-Rod or JD Drew.

    I laughed loudly at FireJoeMorgan’s relentless takedowns of “clutchy, gritty” players like Eckstein, but truthfully? If he was on my team, I would have loved the guy.

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  12. NevadaMark

    As long as we’re talking about Sandy Alomar….

    When Dick Williams resigned as manager of the A’s after they won the World Series in 1973, he signed as manager of the Yankees despite still having a year left on his A’s contract. Good ole Charlie Finley had not given permission to the Yanks to even talk with Williams and, to make a long story short, Finley demanded compensation from New York before giving his consent.

    The Yankees offered Alomar. Finley laughed in Gabe Pauls’s face.

    Williams’ contract was disallowed and the Yanks had to sign Bill Virdon (who kept the seat warm for Billy Martin).

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  13. Grover Jones

    I’m not sure if it’s that Larkin was underrated, or that he had to compete with past-his-prime Ozzie Smith for Gold Gloves that rightfully should have gone to Larkin.

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  14. JR

    I’ve never seen it discussed…..but, if it is true that Alomar contracted AIDS in the timeline suggested, it seems as if the abrupt departure of his skills is definitely related to the infection. Also, if this is true, his career should probably be considered injury-shortened. His broad skill set would normally, absent injury, have let him play deep into his 30s, probably until he was 40. If he had been able to do that, his total career would be considerably more impressive.

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  15. Pingback: Looking Back At Horrible Code | Elia Insider

  16. hunsecker

    Hesitated to bring that up, but yes, I’ve always thought that was a plausible explanation for his sudden decline at 34. I’ve even considered the possibility that the spitting incident (1996)—which was so out of character for Alomar, normally the most mild-mannered guy imaginable—may have happened a short time after he first learned he was HIV-positive. That’s just a wild conjecture, an attempt to explain two things that never quite made sense to me.

    There is, I should add, a much easier explanation for the spitting incident. Alomar was having a phenomenal year in ’96 through to mid-August; he was hitting over .350, and seemed like the favourite for MVP. If you look at his game logs from that point to the incident (Sept. 27), he’d been in free fall for a month. So the much more obvious explanation was frustration spilling over.

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  17. Jim Devine

    Alomar was an excellent defensive second baseman when I watched him. He had great range and a very good arm for a second basemen. Also, I saw a lot of Scott Fletcher and Tony Phillips, who were just average. While there is no question that Jeter is highly overrated at SS, I have no idea how anyone could rate any particular player as the most highly overrated in history. Few, if any, have seen enough players play often enough to make that comment, and the metrics for fielding now in existence are terrible and were nonexistent until just a few years ago.

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