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My Hall of Fame ballot for 2010

I first met Roberto Alomar on a visit to the family household in Salinas, Puerto Rico, in 1987. He was 19 years old. He and his older brother Sandy Jr., then 21, were out in the street in front of the house playing with remote control cars. They were still in the Padres’ Minor League system and as big kids had their lives in front of them.

Sandy Jr., was always more verbose than Robbie. He was a take control kind of kid and took my wife and I on a tour of the southern coast of the island not far from Ponce, where Benito Santiago grew up. My wife, Alicia, loves to sip the milk of coconuts and Sandy took us to a road-side hut along the Atlantic Ocean shore where the owner sliced open a coconut with a machete for her. A fine catcher in his own right, he’s always been that type of guy.

Robbie was playing second base that winter for his dad, who managed Santorce in the Puerto Rican Winter League. That’s the first time I ever saw him on the field. Even at that age, playing in a dusty old stadium, it was easy to see that the kid could play. He was more than a prospect. He was the real thing.

It’s now 23 years later and Roberto has had what I call a Hall of Fame career, coming up with the Padres in 1988, winning two World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992-93, batting .300 with 2,724 hits and .984 fielding percentage. I’ve known Roberto and his family for so long that I discount the spitting incident as an aberration in a great career. After all, he spit in the face of an umpire, John Hirschbeck, who Robbie said called him a derogatory name that takes on even more significance in the Latin culture. Hirschbeck, who had lost his son at the time, wasn’t in the greatest state of mind. The two made peace. Let’s move on.

This year I filled out my ballot, using all 10 slots. Of the newcomers I voted for Robbie, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez. Of the returnees, I checked off Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lee Smith and Mark McGwire. I added Robin Ventura to the bunch just because he was a personal favorite. I doubt Ventura will even get the 5 percent requisite vote to carry him over. If he doesn’t at least he knows he got one vote. Mine.

Usually, I vote for three or four guys, but this year I decided to spread it out. I’ve never voted for Blyleven, Morris or Dawson, but under closer scrutiny all deserve a place in Cooperstown. Morris was the best pitcher in the American League for a decade and turned teams into World Champions, winning in Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto. Blyleven is fifth all-time in strikeouts (3,701). Of his 287 wins, 60 were shutouts. Dawson played on bad knees and with sheer guts. His numbers certainly stand up to Jim Rice, who was elected last year.

I’ve voted for McGwire every year he’s been on the ballot and will continue to do so. I’m not sure what to do with players whose careers spanned the steroid era, particularly when the use of those drugs are implied. Next year we’ll have Rafael Palmeiro on the ballot. He’s only one of four players to amass 500 homers and 3,000 hits — Eddie Murray, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron are the others. He also failed a drug test at the end of his career. What will I do about Rafi? It will all go into the mix. I have no hard and fast rules.

I vote for Smith and Trammell every year. It baffles me why Smith (478 saves for third on the all-time list) and the great shortstop Trammell are not in the Hall. I couldn’t vote for Barry Larkin this year because Trammell is not a member. Larkin: a .295 lifetime average, 2,340 hits, 198 homers and 960 RBIs in 2,180 games, all with the Reds. Trammell: .285 with 2,365 hits, 185 homers and 1,003 RBIs in 2,293 games, all with the Tigers. What am I missing here?

McGriff and Martinez are also worthy. Fred was a great guy and a great player who’s career arch ended with him seven short of 500 homers. He was such an impact player everywhere he went, I’m not going to hold that against him. Neither should Edgar’s accomplishments be shrouded by the fact that he was a true designated hitter throughout most of his career. He played in Seattle and the American League utilizes that rule. That’s the way his managers chose to use him. He’s a .312 lifetime hitter with 2,247 hits, 309 homers, 1,261 RBIs, a .418 on-base percentage and a.515 slugging percentage. Let’s look at the numbers, not his position. That’s what I went by.

So that’s the way I did it this year, the 17th time I’ve voted for the Hall of Fame dating back to 1993. I’ll be looking forward to the announcement on Wednesday to see how my writing colleagues judged it as well.

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