37. Roberto Alomar, 2B (1996-1998)
All-Star: 1996, 1997, 1998
Gold Glove: 1996, 1998
Silver Slugger: 1996
Robbie Alomar was on the two most memorable Oriole teams of my lifetime (I was alive in '83, but barely), the 1996 and 1997 teams. Maybe I'm putting him here sentimentally. But without question, Alomar is one of the best players to ever wear an Orioles uniform.
Signed by the Padres in 1985 when he was 17 years old, Alomar made it to the show at age 20 in '88, and he started right away. He was immediately outstanding in the field and a decent stick, plus he could run. He stayed with the Padres for two more seasons before being traded to Toronto with Joe Carter in exchange for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez, one of the first real blockbuster deals I can recall really being wowed by.
Of course, Carter became a folk hero in Toronto, and Alomar (the 1992 ALCS MVP) was one of the best players on the Jays' back-to-back World Series championship teams of '92 and '93. After the '95 season, Alomar signed a three-year deal with the Orioles.
In 1996, Alomar was an All-Star and won a Gold Glove -- in fact, he was an All-Star every year from 1990 through 2001, and he won a Gold Glove every year from 1991 through 2001, except for '97. He hit .328 (seventh in the AL), had a .411 on-base percentage (ninth), scored 132 runs (third) and had 193 hits (sixth), all while being a legitimately great second baseman. He also hit 22 homers, stole 17 bases, walked 90 times, had 43 doubles and 94 RBI.
In '97, Alomar was hurt some and played in just 112 games due to a shoulder injury that allowed him to only bat left-handed, but was outstanding when he did play. In '98 he had a mediocre offensive season by his standards.
But let's get to the real juice and heart of Alomar's stay in Baltimore, and the reason I assume some of you won't like him even being on the list. The reason I included Alomar is because he was a great player, even just for three years, and even though things went sour for him here.
On September 27, 1996, Alomar spit on umpire John Hirschbeck. The two later made nice about it in public, but I don't know that Alomar ever really had the respect he'd had before the incident after it occurred. One thing you can say about Alomar, though, is that he didn't immediately let it get to him. In Cleveland, in game four of the ALDS, Alomar was heckled without relief at Jacobs Field, but he tied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out RBI single off of Jose Mesa, and then he put it to bed about an hour later with a game-winning homer.
Then you have the '97 season, where he played 112 games, served a five-game suspension to start it off, and had a falling out with, well, everyone. Peter Angelos went public with the notion that Alomar's play was suffering because of the Hirschbeck thing, which I always found an odd thing for an owner to do. Alomar's 1998 season was a little rough (he was still a fine player), and at the end of it, he and manager Ray Miller apparently went about fifteen rounds arguing in August.
Alomar moved on, signing with the Indians, oddly enough, and winning his new team's fans over with three really good seasons, two of which were positively outstanding. He was traded to the Mets before the 2002 season, and that was pretty much the story of Roberto Alomar. He drank the cursed Cleveland-to-New York water that put Carlos Baerga out to pasture. He spent about one-and-a-half miserable seasons in New York before being traded to the White Sox in 2003. He signed with Arizona in 2004, and ended up back with the White Sox before the season was out. During spring training of 2005 with Tampa Bay, Alomar retired at 37.
Roberto Alomar was a truly great player, a phenomenal second baseman, a very good hitter, and he should be in the Hall of Fame. His stay with the Orioles, while it included some heroics and some wonderful play, was a little rocky. If you had a sour taste from Alomar when he left, have you held on to it? Have you forgiven whatever troubles he had? I look at him as a player who really could have and probably should have been in Baltimore for at least three more years, but it just wasn't in the cards. And it's too bad, because those three years he had after he left were really something.