Yesterday, the BBWAA voted on the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, as the association voted on three new legendary names in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas into the fold. Those three are well deserving of the honor of Hall of Famer, and their career accomplishments will be rewarded by beautiful Cooperstown plaques and tearful ceremonies in the near future.
But the Hall of Fame vote nowadays is almost as much about who doesn't get in as it is about who is inducted. Jack Morris, he of the ten-inning World Series game and the career 3.90 ERA, failed to reach the 75 percent needed for enshrinement in his final year of eligibility. Craig Biggio missed the Hall for the second straight year, this season by just two votes (I think he'll make it in next time). And of course, a number of suspected steroid users and tangentially-involved players were left off the ballot for yet another season. For some, like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, the numbers at least look promising. For others, like known transgressors Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the hill looks a good deal steeper.
The Marlins obviously do not have much in the way of representation in the Hall of Fame, but this voting season did include four former Marlins. One was Jacque Jones, who puzzlingly received a vote for what can only be described as "poops and giggles." Another was former one-year closer Armando Benitez. Luis Gonzalez spent one year with the Fish and is heading out of the Hall of Fame ballot. And the final name was Moises Alou, the team's former elite outfielder who spent one season with the club yet somehow has played a major role in two World Series wins for the Fish. Alou fell off the ballot this year because he only received votes in 1.1 percent of ballots, leaving him well below the five percent mark needed to stay on another year. With his exiting the Hall of Fame picture forever, I figured it would be a good time to look back on his Marlins-related career.
World Series Champion
Alou would not have worn a Marlins cap had he ever been enshrined in the Hall anyway. He spent five seasons with the Montreal Expos playing under his father Felipe Alou, and his best stretch at the plate started with his lone Marlins season but continued with the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. But Alou's lone World Series victory came as a Marlin and came in one of his better years at the plate.
When you think back to that 1997 season, it turns out that Alou was the Marlins' best hitter of that year. It seems sacrilegious to think someone other Gary Sheffield was the teams's best hitter, but Sheffield had a down season in terms of power and spent a lot of time injured, though his .250/.424/.446 (.383 wOBA) was still better than Alou's .292/.373/.493 (.373 wOBA) mark. Bobby Bonilla had a solid campaign, but his work included less power than Alou's. While Sheffield got on base, Alou served as the team's cleanup man with his team-best .201 ISO. In terms of FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement, Alou was second only to Charles Johnson, who derived a lot of his value from being an offensively competent player and a supreme defensive catcher. Johnson hit well, but Alou anchored the lineup.
Alou's excellence continued all season. Not only did he earn his second All-Star berth with Florida, but his play in the regular season extended into the playoffs. While his work in the Division and League Championship series did not necessarily impress anyone, his play in the World Series should have earned MVP honors. He hit .321/.378/.714 with three homers in 31 plate appearances in that series, and that just fell short of Livan Hernandez's performance according to voters. I maintain that Alou's play was still the better choice.
The Bartman Play
Had Alou only been known as a supreme performer during a happy time in Miami, I do not believe he would be so memorable to Miami. No one recalls Bonilla's season in 1997 that well, but Alou stood out for reasons that go beyond his one year performance. After being traded away, Alou and the Marlins would cross paths again as enemies in one of the most infamous moments in league history.
In Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, Alou was manning left field for the Chicago Cubs when the eighth inning rolled around. Luis Castillo, a former 1997 World Series teammate, hit a pop fly heading into foul territory and hovering over the seats. Alou reached out to grab that baseball, and so did a number of other fans, including Steve Bartman. Bartman is credited for having knocked that ball away from the path of Alou, causing a potential misplay.
The Bartman play was, of course, not just that singular event. Intimately tied to that event was Alou's vehement reaction afterward. He threw his glove down in disgust and could be seen screaming in the directions of the fans, visibly upset that someone had gotten in the way of his catch. His accounts since have been mixed, but one thing he has maintained is that he believed he would make that catch had Bartman not gotten in the way.
Of course, the rest of that game was history. The Marlins scored eight runs thanks to a number of other Cubs mistakes, but many fans believe that the Bartman play was the turning point, and central to that play is Alou's response. There is a thought that, if Alou acts as thought that is just another foul ball that a fan got involved with, perhaps the mentality of the franchise does not change on the play. I believe he did make it worse than it probably was in his response, but I doubt that even Alou's animated reaction was so strong that he affected the Cubs' mentality. Still, he was dead and center in not only his own World Series, but the second one the Marlins won.
Alou was, for a time between 1997 and 2005, one of the league's very best hitters. He helped carry the Astros, Cubs, and San Francisco Giants for some time before finally succumbing to multiple injuries and age. While he certainly was not a Hall-worthy player, he was worth between 40 and 50 wins in his career, and that is more than many players could ever ask for. His career was noteworthy, and for the Marlins, he remains a very important part of their history.