Smooth Robbie: Baseball’s Nomad Superstar

#96

Roberto Alomar

Second Base
San Diego Padres (1988-1990), Toronto Blue Jays (1991-1995), Baltimore Orioles (1996-1998), Cleveland Indians (1999-2001), New York Mets (2002-2003), Chicago White Sox (2003-2004) Arizona Diamondbacks (2004)

This is part of our special series: The 100 Greatest Players in Baseball History. The complete list is published on BaseballEgg.com

“I don’t just sit there and watch the game like a fan. I study the game. There are clues out there, but you have to study closely.” — Robbie Alomar

Either the most sought-after or most unwanted great player in baseball history, depending on how you look at it. Alomar played five seasons for Toronto, three each in the uniforms of the Padres, Orioles, and Indians, parts of two seasons with both the Mets and White Sox, and a single year with Arizona. As baseball researcher Daniel Marks has noted, Alomar has the lowest percentage of games played for his primary team (29 percent for the Blue Jays) of any player who had a lengthy career.  

That’s one of the reasons that Alomar seems like a legend without a favored home. He was a very good player for the Padres as a young man, but few in that sunny city remember fondly his time in their uniform. He was an All-Star in Cleveland and Baltimore, where he teamed with Cal Ripken Jr. and other great players in some memorable teams. But, Alomar is somehow lost among the superstars he shared the lineup with: Manny and Cal and Eddie and Raffy. He was the quick little man in the middle of the infield. He was just there.

It was in Toronto where Alomar made his biggest impact on baseball history: a key member of the 1992-93 Blue Jays, the only non-Yankee team to win back-to-back World Series titles in the last forty years. He won his first Gold Glove in Toronto, and he was an All-Star for the first time. He was a Gold Glove winner and All-Star in each of his five seasons. At the peak of his powers in Toronto, Alomar hit .307 with 11 homers and 41 stolen bases per season. But it happened in Canada. It’s one of the more forgettable dynasties in history, those Jays, for right or for wrong.

In Baltimore in 1996, Alomar got into an altercation with an umpire. he spit in the umpire’s face. It was one of the most violent player/umpire confrontations in decades, and he was suspended for five games and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. That incident, where it’s alleged Alomar insulted the umpire, John Hirschbeck about the death of his son, tainted the ballplayer’s image. Irreparably, really. Years later when his name appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, Alomar missed election by eight votes. He was elected the next year overwhelmingly, but his one year wait was almost certainly a “penalty” for the spitting incident.

Alomar was the the Blue Jays Player of the Year in 1991, 1992, and 1995, and in Cleveland they named him “Indians Man of the Year” in 1999 and again in 2001. But none of those honors are recognized today due to the ugly revelations after his playing career.

In 2021, while serving in hos role as a special consultant to the president of the Toronto Blue Jays, Alomar was accused of sexual harassment by a female team employee. Following an investigation, he was fired. The team removed his name from their ring of honor at their ballpark, and any references to him, any images of him at the Rogers Centre in Toronto were removed. Worse yet for Alomar, a few months later Major League Baseball banned him from the game.

The two sides of Alomar: the perfect middle infielder in a perfectly tailored uniform and the man with a violent temper and imprudent manners, are at odds. It’s not unusual. It is however, sad.

Written by Dan Holmes, author of four books on baseball.

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