Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Keltner List: Moises Alou

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah, everyone! Today I will knock out the last of the maybe players on the ballot for next year by looking at the career of Moises Alou.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball?

Again, not to my knowledge. Alou was consistently regarded as a very good player but not the best in baseball.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

An interesting one for Alou. On a personal note, I wanted him to stay with the Pirates in 1990, but he helped get Zane Smith and the Pirates had some guys named Bonds, Van Slyke and Bonilla in the outfield.

Montreal 1990-96: The 1994 Expos were one of the great "what if" teams. This coincided with Alou's first big year (.339/.397/.592) as he led the team in HR and finished third in the MVP voting. Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom and Alou were a very strong outfield trio. Walker and Grissom were gone after 1994, leaving Alou as the best player on the team. Yes, even better than Henry Gonzalez. I don't know if he was considered a better player than Walker or Grissom; at the time, I would have probably taken Grissom over Alou.

1997 Florida: For the World Series champs, I would probably pick Charles Johnson, but Alou is in the discussion

1998-2001: Houston: I Would still take Bagwell.

Chicago 2002-04: You probably have to go with Sosa on this one, even though Sammy could no longer run very well or play defense very well.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Like Luis Gonzalez, Alou suffers by being a direct contemporary with Barry Bonds. This is the reason he wound up with the Expos. He was most likely the second best LF for several years in the NL in the 1990s, making him one of the top five or six at his position at the time. He was certainly better than Gonzalez.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Alou hit very well in the 1997 World Series and crushed the ball in the 2003 playoffs (.387, 2 HR, 8 RBI .551 SLG in 12 games). Alou did not produce much in September 2003 in a race in which the Cubs finished one game ahead of the Astros. In a crucial four game series in August, Alou collected four hits, including a go ahead 5th inning HR of Dan Miceli on the 13th which gave the Cubs a 6-4 lead that Joe Borowski (!) and the bullpen held. Against the Astros, Alou hit very well that season with 15 RBI in 16 games and an OPS of .962.

In 1997, Alou started off September with an 8 game hitting streak (.464/.516/.679) as the Marlins fought successfully for a wild card spot.

In 2007, Alou injured his quad with the Mets at a 22-13 record. He returned to action on July 27th, The Mets went 35-31 without him. In September, Alou fashioned a 30 game hitting streak (.423/.451/.649) but the Mets continually let games slip away and went .500 for the month, finishing a game behind the Phillies. Alou hit .437 against the Phillies for the season, including a 5-12 performance in the only series that the Mets had with the Phillies in September.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could contribute past his prime?

Absolutely. As a 40 year old, Alou had a 30 game hit streak. He was a two time all star after age 35.

6. Is he the best player in baseball history not in the hall of fame?

No. I would again go with Barry Bonds.

7. Are most players with similar statistics in the hall of fame?

Only one of Alou's comps is in the Hall of Fame. Chuck Klein won the 1932 NL MVP with the Phillies and led he league in HR 4 times. Strangely enough, Klein won the MVP the season before he won the Triple Crown.

Of the rest, Magglio Ordonez, Shawn Green, Lance Berkman and Paul O'Neill are not eligible. Fred Lynn received less than 6% of the vote when he appeared on the ballot (which strikes me as silly). Indian Bob Johnson received less than 1% in both his two years (1952-53, which strikes me as O.K.).

8. Do the players numbers meet hall of fame standards?

Alou never led the league in a batting category. For "grey ink" appearances (top 10), Alou posts 64 appearances, while the average hall of famer nets 144. For Hall of Fame standards, Alou is at 44 with a likely hall of famer at 50. Alou finished with a .301 batting average and 332 HR. Over a 162 game period, his average offensive output was .303/.369/.516 with 28 HR and 107 RBI. This in a career conducted during the high offensive level 1990s and 2000s.

Alou did miss two full seasons with injuries (1991 and 1999) along with parts of several others.

9. Is there evidence to suggest that Alou was much better or worse than his statistics suggest?

Alou's horrific broken ankle in 1991 took away a lot of his speed. From 1988-90 he stole 20 bases a year in the minors. It also cost him on defense. Alou seemed to have a huge amount of respect from his fellow players and from broadcasters. He probably would have been a different player if not for the ankle; I cannot say better or worse, but adding a dimension of speed to his game in the 1990s is intriguing to say the least.

10. Is he the best player eligible who has not been inducted?

No, as that would again be Bonds.

11. How many MVP type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, How many times did he come close?

Alou never won an MVP award but finished in the top three in voting twice (1994 and 1998), the top 10 in 1997 and the top 15 in 2001 and 2004.  In 1994, Bagwell was the runaway (and legit) winner. He was second in the voting for Rookie of the Year in 1992 to Eric Karros. Had Alou not missed some of the season due to his ankle, he probably would have won the award. He picked up Silver Slugger awards in 1994 and 1998.

12. How many all star type seasons did he have? How many All Star teams did he play for? Did most other players selected to that many All Star games get elected to the Hall of Fame?

Alou made 6 All Star teams. Of his comps, Lynn made 9, Reggie Smith and Indian Bob Johnson 7 each. Alou never started an all star game but notched the game winning hit in 1994.

13. If this man was the best player on his team, could that team conceivably win the pennant?

I am inclined to say no, but it would be a contender.

14.What impact did the player have on baseball history?

Alou was a central player in the "Bartman Incident" during the 2003 playoffs.  Steve Bartman, attempting to catch a foul pop fly down the left field line in Wrigley and chaos ensued as Alu reached up to catch the ball. At first Alou claimed that he could not have caught the foul fly anyway, but then in 2008 he changed his story. In any event, the Bartman play is what is remembered, not Alex Gonzalez's inexplicable error on a double play ball earlier in the inning. The Bartman story is best looked at in the great ESPN 30 for 30 documentary "Catching Hell."

Alou was also conspicuous as one of the last players not to wear batting gloves. On in 2004, Alou was listed as urinating on his hands during the season to toughen up his skin.

15.Did the player uphold the standards of the hall of fame?

As far as I know he did. Alou is untainted by the steroids scandal and was always seen as a respectful and respected clubhouse presence.

I don't think Alou is a hall of fame player. His case would have been MUCH stronger had he not missed two seasons to injury, but I cannot count that. He was a fine player (and for two or three years a great one) but not a hall of famer.


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