At Baseball Prospectus today, Jay Jaffe examines (subscription required) the Hall of Fame credentials of three second basemen, two of them former Mets acquired from the Indians who fell short of expectations after arriving in Queens: Roberto Alomar and Carlos Baerga.
On Alomar, Jaffe writes:
Though he never won an MVP award, Alomar placed in the top five twice (1999 and 2001) and finished sixth in his first three years in Toronto. He was otherwise well-decorated, as no other second baseman won the Gold Glove more often. He was worth at least 10 runs in the field in three of the seasons in which he won the award, and the one year amid that 11-year stretch in which he didn't (1997). He excelled in October, outdoing his career line with a .331/.381/.448 showing in 260 postseason plate appearances across seven trips. He won the 1992 ALCS MVP award en route to the first of his two rings with the Blue Jays.
Acquired in a trade during the 2001 offseason, Alomar cost the Mets outfielder Matt Lawton (whom they had only recently acquired at the 2000 deadline for Rick Reed), top prospect Alex Escobar, and three minor league pitchers. Alomar was dreadful for a season and a half before the Mets shipped him off to the White Sox for reliever Royce Ring.
Baerga earned All-Star honors and accumulated at least 5.8 WARP in three of the next four seasons. He reached 200 hits and 20 homers in 1992 and 1993, and hit .314/.355/.452 in 1995 for a team that won 100 games despite the strike-shortened schedule; more importantly, the Indians reached the playoffs for the first time in 41 years. Alas, Baerga didn't stick around long enough to be part of the team's late-Nineties run; he started slowly the following season (.254/.293/.381), and was traded to the Mets near the deadline in a deal which brought back Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino.
It was a prescient move by the Indians, and not only because Baerga struggled to a .193/.253/.301 finish while battling an abdominal injury in New York. Amid questions about his conditioning, and battles with injuries, he quickly turned into a mediocre journeyman. He hit just .267/.302/.373 in two years of regular duty with the Mets before departing as a free agent.
Baerga was just 28 when he came to the Mets (Alomar was 33), but still wound up being a massive disappointment especially when you consider how good Kent wound up being and how bad Mets second basemen were until Edgardo Alfonzo came along in the late-nineties.
I still remember coming in to work and seeing the ESPN front-page Photoshop of Alomar in a Mets hat and could hardly be blamed for my unabashed giddiness. Steve Phillips, at the time the general manager of an actual Major League Baseball team, went on to assemble a modern-day Murderer's Row at Shea--bringing in Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno--and the team responded by quietly finishing fifth in the NL East. Alomar was coming off a season in which he hit .336/.415/.541, won a Gold Glove, and was fourth in the MVP voting, so while the failures of Vaughn, Burnitz, and Cedeno could have been foretold with varying degrees of certainty, Alomar's precipitous fall, despite his advancing age, was by far the most stunning.
What are your memories of Alomar and Baerga, good, bad, or otherwise?