It's hard to get into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. How hard? So hard that the great Carlos Baerga -- the first Washington Nationals player to appear on the ballot -- didn't even get one vote on the 436 ballots. As a result, Baerga will disappear from the Hall of Fame ballot -- a candidate needs to garner at least 5 percent of the vote to remain up for election.
No fear, though, Nationals fans -- Vinny Castilla will be on the ballot next year. The Nationals at least will remain a novelty on the Hall of Fame ballot for the foreseeable future.
It is so hard to get into Cooperstown that just two candidates -- second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven -- received the necessary 75 percent of the vote for induction in this year's class.
Baltimore owner Peter Angelos appeared to lay claim to Alomar as some kind of Orioles victory with this statement following the announcement Wednesday afternoon:
"We congratulate Roberto Alomar on his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Although he spent just three of his 17 seasons in Baltimore, Roberto's accomplishments during his time here were significant. His performance during those years, which included three All-Star Game selections, two Gold Gloves and countless on-field heroics, helped the team make two playoff appearances and showcased Roberto's Hall of Fame credentials."
Alomar will not be going in the Hall of Fame in an Orioles cap. He likely will be inducted as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, with whom he played five years and was part of two World Series championships teams in 1992 and 1993.
But he did play for the Orioles from 1996 through 1998 and will forever be tied to the Orioles for the spitting incident involving umpire John Hirschbeck at the end of the 1996 season. It is part of his history, but at least for Hall of Fame voters, 90 percent of whom voted for Alomar -- myself included -- it is not his baseball legacy.
Alomar's credentials -- a 12-time All Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner -- were strong enough to overcome any concerns that might have existed over the Hirschbeck controversy. What's ironic was that the incident came at the end of a season in which I saw the best baseball player I had ever witnessed in person on a daily basis.
Alomar batted .328 for the Orioles in 1996 with 22 home runs, 94 RBI and 132 runs scored. He had a better statistical season with the Cleveland Indians in 1999, but I never saw a better overall player in all aspects of the game -- hitting, fielding, base running.
Accompanying Alomar will be Blyleven, the 287-game winner who had perhaps the greatest curveball of the past 50 years.
Coming close but falling short was Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, whom I also voted for. You can vote for up to 10 candidates, and I selected Alomar, Blyleven, Larkin, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Alan Trammell and Harold Baines.
I didn't vote for Mark McGwire, whose vote total in his third year on the ballot went down again -- this time to just 19.8 percent. Nor did I vote for Rafael Palmeiro, who received just 11 percent of the vote in his first year eligible. They were steroid users with substantial proof -- or in McGwire's case finally an admission -- of guilt. Three of the six criteria for election are character, integrity and contributions to the game. Those men failed miserably.
Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org