You might not know it, but the Arizona Diamondbacks will soon have their first Hall of Famer.
No, not Randy Johnson. He isn't eligible for election yet. It's not Curt Schilling, either -- although both guys are going to make it into the Hall someday.
Roberto Alomar, who played 38 games with the Diamondbacks in 2004 before being traded to the Chicago White Sox in his final season, was elected to the Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago alongside Minnesota Twins great Bert Blyleven. It was Alomar's second turn on the ballot and Blyleven's 14th, with Alomar gaining 90 percent of the vote while Blyleven received 79.7 percent.
The two join long-time MLB general manager Pat Gillick, elected by the veterans committee last December, in this year's class. Gillick assembled the Blue Jays teams that won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, as well as the Phillies that won it all in 2008.
To our knowledge, there's only one writer in the state with a Hall of Fame vote, but neither he nor his newspaper has written about this year's selections. So we decided to call Mark Faller, the sports editor at the Arizona Republic, to ask what's up.
"Funny that you mention that," he tells New Times. "I usually put my vote in the paper. I absolutely completely forgot."
Most voting reporters in baseball cities tend to share their thoughts on the Hall of Fame in the days after the election. Many of them, in fact, hold their vote with a sense of civic responsibility (or sanctimony) akin to electing the President. But this year, the Republic skimped out on coverage of the election. Faller cites the Republic's busy schedule in covering the end of the NFL season and three bowl games, including the BCS National Championship, for the lapse. But for those wondering, the Republic's sports editor took time out of his afternoon yesterday to talk with us about his ballot.
To be eligible, a baseball writer must cover baseball for 10 consecutive years. Nick Piecoro, the Diamondbacks beat reporter at the Republic, tells New Times in an e-mail that he has four years to go before he can vote. Faller says he voted for Alomar and Blyleven, whom he says he has supported since 2005.
Faller also cast a ballot for Barry Larkin, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, and Jack Morris. His is a list of gamers, and it isn't a bad one -- unless you're a player from the modern era.
Faller did not vote for Mark McGwire, who lost support in his first election since admitting to taking steroids. Faller called him a "one-dimensional player" whom he might not have voted for even without the "steroid cloud" hovering over him. He didn't vote for Rafael Palmeiro, who made his debut at 11 percent, either -- a rather low total for a man with 569 home runs and 3,020 hits, but a well-deserved one for a man who testified in front of Congress that he had never taken steroids yet failed a drug test two weeks later.
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Former Diamondbacks-nemesis Kevin Brown made his first appearance on the ballot and failed to get even 5 percent of the vote, dropping him off the ballot.
According to Faller, it "says something" about a player's qualifications when they can't make it past the first ballot. Brown's case is interesting, though, for reasons explained best by Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnasnki, who notes that Kevin Brown is very similar to Curt Schilling -- without his great strikeout-to-walk ratio or postseason success. Of course, Kevin Brown had historically good groundball rates and was outstanding at preventing runs from scoring -- the first and only goal of a pitcher. Writers might one day regret not having a chance to re-evaluate Brown like they've done Blyleven.
This year's election was an important one for writers and players alike. The big question was how McGwire's admission that he took steroids would help or hurt his case, and what that would mean for guys coming up in a few years, like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. If confessing would have helped their cases, maybe more ballplayers would come out of the pharmacist's office to ask forgiveness and understanding. Or maybe writers would stop casting aspersions on players for having played in the 1990s, like Sports Illustrated's Jeff Pearlman did to Jeff Bagwell a few weeks ago.
But the election didn't quite work out that way, so it seems that the steroid issue will continue to confound sportswriters until the Hall of Fame makes a statement advising voters on how to handle it.