Top 100 Indians: #36 Roberto Alomar

Roberto Alomar - Jim McIsaac

This next player only spent three seasons in Cleveland, but they were a great three seasons.

Roberto (Velazquez) Alomar

Second Baseman, 1999-2001

Height: 6'0" Weight: 184 lbs

Throws: Right Bats: Both

How Acquired: Free Agent, December 1, 1998

Left Via: Trade, December 11, 2001: Traded with Danny Peoples and Mike Bascik to the New York Mets for Matt Lawton, Alex Escobar, Jerrod Riggan, Billy Traber (PTBNL) and Earl Snyder (PTBNL)

Roberto Alomar is a rather unique player on this list, and not just of because of his skills on the baseball field. Alomar was signed by the Indians at the height of his Hall of Fame career, a transaction that the Indians are usually on the other side of. But those Indians teams, as we've since seen, were rather unique in franchise history, and the stars aligned to allow them to bring on board one of baseball's best players.

Alomar was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the island's second-biggest city outside of San Juan. At the time of his birth, Roberto's father Sandy was just starting to establish himself as a major-league second baseman with the White Sox. Roberto would spend time with his father in the summer after school was out, picking up the game from watching players like Graig Nettles (#75 on the Top 100 Indians list) and Thurman Munson and of course his father.

Sandy Alomar Sr. was part of the second wave of outstanding Puerto Rican major leaguers, making his debut about 10 years after Roberto Clemente and Vic Power and 6 years after Orlando Cepeda. By the mid-60s, there was a tremendous amount of talent coming from the island, with at least a couple significant players making their debut every year. Up until 1990, Puerto Rican players were not subject to the Major League draft, so Roberto was one of the last players signed before the draft was extended to Puerto Rico. He followed his older brother Sandy Alomar, Jr to the San Diego Padres, signing in 1985 at the age of 17.

Alomar started his professional career in the full-season South Atlantic League, and right away showed signs of greatness. He hit .293/.362/.330 for Charleston in 1985, then broke out in 1986, hitting .346/.397/.447 in the California League at age 18. Alomar played a bit of shortstop in his first pro season, but quickly settled in at second base, the position his father was most known for. By 1987, Alomar was considered one of the best, if not the best, prospect in baseball after dominating AA as 19-year-old. The Padres brought him to the big leagues at the end of April in 1988, and at age 20 he was in the majors to stay.

The Padres at this time was just starting a run of outstanding baseball. Jack McKeon had just replaced Larry Bowa as manager, and there was a ton of young talent on the roster, including Alomar, Benito Santiago, John Kruk, and of course Tony Gwynn. Roberto's brother Sandy was at this time blocked by Santiago, and that would lead to his trade to the Indians a couple years later. Roberto hit .266/.328/.382 (105 OPS+) as a 20-year-old, finishing 5th in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Had advanced statistics like WAR been available, though, it's very likely that Alomar would have finished much higher, for he posted 4.33 bWAR, second only to Cincinnati's Chris Sabo among NL rookies.

Alomar followed up that rookie campaign with another outstanding season in 1989. He appeared in 158 games as a 21-year-old, helping the Padres to an 89-73 and second-place finish (3 games behind San Francisco). That winter the Padres acquired Joe Carter from the Indians in exchange for Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga, and Chris James, but despite that blockbuster trade the Padres finished below .500 and well out of the NL West race. Alomar regressed some in his third major-league season, posting a sub-100 OPS+ for what would be the last time until his first season with the New York Mets. Even so, Alomar made his first All-Star team in the first of 12 consecutive appearaces.

But after a disappointing season, San Diego decided to make another blockbuster trade - and blockbuster is perhaps underselling the deal. On December 5, 1990, the Padres traded Alomar and Joe Carter for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff. Although the deal jump-started Toronto's run of division and World Series titles, the trade wasn't that bad for San Diego either, as McGriff finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in each of his two full season and Fernandez wasn't exactly chopped liver.

But ultimately Toronto got the better of the deal thanks to Alomar blossoming into a superstar. He won the first of what would be 10 Gold Gloves in 1991 and finished 6th in MVP voting (115 OPS+). In 1992, he was even better, hitting .310/.405/.427 and a key cog in Toronto's World Series-winning team. And he was better yet again in 1993, as Toronto repeated as champions. By 1995, Alomar was still on the upswing of his career, while the Blue Jays were on the cusp of breaking up their club. So when Alomar became a free agent after the 1995 season, he left Toronto for Baltimore.

He joined a team that was being built to win a championship, and almost put them over the top. Teamed with Cal Ripken Jr and Rafael Palmeiro and Mike Mussina, the Orioles upset the Indians in 1996 before losing to the Yankees in the ALCS. The following season, the Orioles were the AL's best team, but it was their turn to be upset, losing to the Indians in 6 games in the ALCS.

In 1996, Roberto Alomar and umpire John Hirschbeck were involved in a rather ugly incident. After a called third strike, Alomar and Hirshbeck got into a heated argument. During the midst of the argument, Alomar spat in Hirshcbeck's face, and later said that the spitting was a result of Hirschbeck uttering a racial slur. Alomar was suspended for five games in 1997 and fined $50,000. Alomar and Hirschbeck would later make public apologies, and both are now good friends.

After the 1998 season, Alomar was again a free agent, and signed a four-year deal with the Cleveland Indians, reuniting with his brother Sandy. Second base had been a problem for the Indians ever since Carlos Baerga's career fell apart in 1996, and the signing gave the Indians a former All-Star at every position. In 1999, Alomar had perhaps his best season, finishing third in AL MVP voting and winning both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards at second base. The Indians once again made the playoffs, but blew a 2-0 lead to Boston in the ALDS. The Indians missed the playoffs in Alomar's second season, and made the playoffs but lost again in the ALDS in 2001.

By this time the payroll had ballooned beyond the team's revenues, and the farm system was in bad shape due to trades and poor drafting. So after the 2001 season, new GM Mark Shapiro tried to rebuild on the fly, trading Roberto Alomar and two other players to the New York Mets for OF Matt Lawton, OF Alex Escobar, LHP Billy Traber, and 3B Earl Snyder. As it turned out, the trade worked out equally bad for both clubs. The Indians immediately signed Lawton to an extension that they lived to regret, while injuries torpedoed the careers of Escobar and Traber. Meanwhile Alomar suddenly went from one of the game's best players to a below-average player. He only hit .266/.331/.376 with the Mets in 2002, his worst season as a major-leaguer. Another poor season in 2003 led to a trade the Chicago White Sox, but that didn't help, either. His last season in the majors was 2004. He was done at the age of 36.

But his brilliant career more than made up for its poor ending. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 in just his second year of eligibility, becoming the first Blue Jay to gain that honor.

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • Hall of Fame: 2011
  • AL All-Star: 1999, 2000, 2001
  • AL MVP: 1999-3rd; 2001-5th
  • AL Gold Glove: 1999, 2000, 2001
  • AL Silver Slugger: 1999, 2000
  • AL WAR: 3rd, 1999-7.4; 5th, 2001-7.3
  • AL WAR Position Players: 2nd, 1999-7.4; 5th, 2001-7.3; 10th, 2000-5.6
  • AL oWAR: 3rd, 2001-7.7; 5th, 1999-6.7
  • AL Average: 3rd, 2001-.336
  • AL On Base Percentage: 4th, 2001-.415; 7th, 1999-.422
  • AL OPS: 7th, 2001-.956
  • AL Plate Appearances: 9th, 2000-697
  • AL Runs Scored: 1st, 1999-138; 4th, 2001-113; 9th, 2000-111
  • AL Hits: 6th, 2001-193; 10th, 2000-189
  • AL 2B: 8th, 1999-40
  • AL 3B: 2nd, 2001-12
  • AL RBI: 8th, 1999-120
  • AL Bases On Balls: 6th, 1999-99
  • AL Stolen Bases: 2nd, 2000-39; 4th, 1999-37
  • AL Singles: 6th, 2001-127; 8th, 2000-128
  • AL OPS+: 7th, 2001-150
  • AL RC: 4th, 2001-138; 6th, 1999-139
  • AL Sacrifice Hits: 4th, 1999-12; 5th, 2001-9; 7th, 2000-11
  • AL Sacrifice Flies: 1st, 1999-13; 6th, 2001-9
  • AL Double Plays Grounded Into: 9th, 2000-19
  • AL SB %: 1st, 2000-90.70; 2nd, 1999-86.05; 10th, 2001-83.33
  • AL WPA: 4th, 1999-5.5; 5th, 2001-4.7
  • AL Assists: 4th, 1999-466
  • AL Putouts as 2B: 3rd, 2000-293
  • AL Assists as 2B: 1st, 2000-437; 2nd, 1999-466; 4th, 2001-423
  • AL Errors as 2B: 2nd, 2000-15
  • AL Double Plays Turned as 2B: 2nd, 1999-109; 4th, 2000-109
  • AL Fielding Percentage as 2B: 1st, 1999-.992; 1st, 2001-.993; 4th, 2000-.980

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 29th WAR Position Players (20.3)
  • 32nd oWAR (19.3)
  • t-48th dWAR (2.1)
  • t-6th Average (.323)
  • t-5th On Base Percentage (.405)
  • 9th Slugging (.515)
  • 8th OPS (.920)
  • 23rd Stolen Bases (106)
  • t-17th OPS+ (134)
  • t-16th Sacrifice Flies (28)
  • 13th Win Probability Added (10.0)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-24th WAR (7.4, 1999)
  • t-27th WAR (7.3, 2001)
  • 13th oWAR (7.7, 2001)
  • 25th oWAR (6.7, 1999)
  • t-47th Average (.336, 2001)
  • t-34th On Base Percentage (.422, 1999)
  • t-43rd On Base Percentage (.415, 2001)
  • 2nd Runs Scored (138, 1999)
  • 27th Runs Scored (113, 2001)
  • t-31st Runs Scored (111, 2000)
  • 37th Hits (193, 2001)
  • t-46th Hits (189, 2000)
  • 31st Total Bases (311, 2001)
  • t-46th Total Bases (300, 1999)
  • t-40th Triples (12, 2001)
  • t-23rd Runs Batted In (120, 1999)
  • t-18th Bases On Balls (99, 1999)
  • t-19th Stolen Bases (39, 2000)
  • t-24th Stolen Bases (37, 1999)
  • t-49th Stolen Bases (30, 2001)
  • t-19th Runs Created (139, 1999)
  • 21st Runs Created (138, 2001)
  • t-50th Extra Base Hits (67, 1999)
  • t-3rd Sacrifice Flies (13, 1999)
  • t-17th Sacrifice Flies (9, 2001)
  • t-29th Double Plays Grounded Into (19, 2000)
  • t-5th Win Probability Added (5.5, 1999)
  • t-17th Win Probability Added (4.7, 2001)

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