Alomar: Good Riddance

A number of adjectives come to mind when describing Roberto Alomar's brief tenure as a New York Met. There's underachieving, disappointing, and unproductive. And how about this one: gutless.

Alomar was traded to the Chicago White Sox Tuesday for three minor league prospects, ending a year and a half-long debacle as the Mets second baseman. It was the first big trade made by interim General Manager Jim Duquette, and at least one of the prospects - relief pitcher Royce Ring - brings some optimism to the future of the organization. But a bag of pearly white Rawlings as a return package for Alomar would suffice for now. Trading Alomar is addition by subtraction.

Alomar failed to come close to putting up the type of Hall of Fame numbers he had the previous 11 years before his move to Flushing. But he wasn't the first star to see his offensive numbers plummet inside Shea Stadium. Mets fans don't have to like the fact that he was as unproductive as he was, but they might have been able to live with it if they had seen any semblance of effort.

But what everyone who cares about the Mets - players, executives, fans - should not tolerate is that Alomar brought his apathy to the ballpark as often as his bat and glove. Not only was he playing poorly, but Alomar never once looked like was into the game or having fun. He was about as exciting and energetic as Ben Stein's character on The Wonder Years. After he was traded, Alomar was quoted as saying "Maybe I tried to do too much." The everyday observer, even the casual observer, would beg to differ. In fact, we haven't heard a fib like that since Michael Corleone told Kay he didn't kill Carlo. No Robbie, the words "tried" and "much" have no business in that comment. Remember, we've seen you sleepwalk through more than 200 games now.

Take for instance his constant lack of hustle down to first base. In addition to that headfirst slide nonsense, Alomar consistently slowed down 10 or 15 feet before the base on routine grounders, sometimes even hanging a right turn before he reached the bag. The kids in Williamsport run further than Alomar down to first. In a game where a player is sitting about half the time and standing another third of the time, is it too much to ask a man making $7.5 million to run hard for what amounts to about four seconds? If Ty Wigginton and Jason Phillips can do it, then Alomar sure as hell can. The veterans are the ones that are supposed to set examples, not the other way around.

Another alarming aspect of Alomar's game was his apparent indifference to just about everything. How many times did the camera focus on Alomar and his expressionless face looked as if he had just been hypnotized by 20 straight hours of Pauly Shore movies? It's tough to remember him getting even minimally excited over a big hit (there were few) or showing frustration during a prolonged batting slump (there were plenty).

Yes, baseball players can never get too high or too low, and remaining on an even keel is important. And yes, some players are reserved and keep their emotions inside. But with Alomar, there was always the sense that he didn't care. Not that he should pull a Jeff Weaver and scream assorted four-letter words at his glove. But please, maybe a fist pump every once in a while. Maybe he could have even grimaced after looking bad on a strikeout. At least when a guy like Jeromy Burnitz has a bad at-bat, he shows you he cares and he's not satisfied. But Mets fans never got that vibe from Alomar; he seemed content with being mediocre.

Most importantly, where was his heart? With a man on second and no outs, a gutsy player sees a 3-1 fastball and laces it to the outfield for an RBI. They don't drag bunt and let the next guy get the job done, as Alomar did last week against Brad Penny and the Marlins. In a tie game with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, they stay in there, take the hard slide and turn two to get out of the inning. They don't fall away towards left field and lob a throw that can't double up Ivan Rodriguez, as Alomar did in early April.

So now Alomar is gone, and Mets fans should be happy. As the Mets try to get younger and find an identity, it is clear that Alomar had no place with this group. He doesn't bring the all-out hustle we see from youngsters like Wigginton and Jose Reyes. He doesn't show the toughness we see from veterans like Cliff Floyd, who is battling to play on one good leg.

Even if he plays well in Chicago (and judging the Mets recent luck, you know he will), dumping Alomar was the right move. And while the demise of Alomar may always remain a mystery, at least the Mets can find solace in that dealing with him is now a thing of the past.

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