Brotherly competition still resonates with Alomars
TORONTO -- Brotherly love? On Oct. 5, 1996, Roberto Alomar ended his older brother's season.
Things are much tamer these days, with both Roberto and Sandy delving into their baseball afterlives. But there remains a bit of a competitive edge, palpable even during this week's opening series between Roberto's Blue Jays and Sandy's Indians.
Roberto serves as a special assistant to the Toronto organization. He runs baseball camps across Canada and advises the front office on various matters. Sandy earned his first taste of managing last September, when he piloted Cleveland through the final six contests of a choppy season. He stuck with the club as bench coach when the Indians hired Terry Francona as skipper.
"Mom and Dad must be really proud of them," said Indians first baseman Nick Swisher.
Not only are they proud, but they're a bit relieved. Now that their sons aren't on the field, it requires less of an avid investment on their end after rooting for their sons' teams for two decades. The closest Sandy gets to the field now is when he strolls to home plate before first pitch each night to exchange lineup cards. Roberto comfortably observes games at Rogers Centre from his suite along the third-base line.
Life wasn't always so relaxed.
"My mom would always go nuts when I played against Robbie in the postseason," Sandy said.
A passion for baseball has long been rooted in the Alomar lineage. Roberto pinpointed a host of branches on the family tree -- uncles, cousins and their father -- who dabbled in baseball at one level or another. The brothers followed around their dad, Sandy Sr., when the middle infielder wreaked havoc on the big league basepaths for 15 years.
Sandy and Roberto came up together through the Padres organization before going their separate ways. Their competitive fires blazed white-hot in 1996, when Roberto's Orioles squared off against Sandy's Indians in the American League Division Series.
In Game 4, Roberto launched a Jose Mesa pitch over the Progressive Field (then Jacobs Field) fence for a game-winning homer. With the victory, Baltimore advanced to the AL Championship Series and Cleveland went home, short of a second straight World Series appearance. Sandy and Roberto retreated home after the game on different planets, emotion-wise.
"There's only going to be one winner and one loser," Roberto said. "It was great, but it was tough. As a brother, that's the test that you have."
The two joined forces in 1999 after Roberto signed a three-year pact with the Tribe. At last, the entire Alomar clan again had one, unified allegiance.
"It'd be awesome to have that kind of bond and that relationship with someone on the team," said Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. "It'd be pretty cool to have someone that's more than just a teammate that you can go to with other questions."
Sandy and Roberto don't converse as often as they did during their playing careers.
As Sandy put it: "We don't hold hands."
Nevertheless, the two do communicate at least once a week and take solace in the fact that no longer must every conversation revolve around Roberto's quest for another Gold Glove or Sandy's bid to earn another All-Star Game nod. Roberto said they talk "mostly about family and our kids."
A 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Roberto is content with his current position, which grants him the flexibility to also operate the Robbie Alomar Foundation and his burgeoning baseball equipment company, Alomar Baseball. Sandy maintains aspirations to manage, though he refuses to flirt with those dreams during the season. He interviewed for the Blue Jays' managerial position in the fall of 2010 before the club opted for John Farrell.
"I would love to work with Sandy in the same organization," Roberto said.
Should that ever materialize, it could mark the end of a lengthy sibling rivalry.
There is, however, one setting in which the competition between the brothers has died down considerably. When the two met for dinner in Toronto on Monday night, Robbie, per usual, picked up the tab, claiming a responsibility to repay Sandy for taking care of him when the two were kids.
Sandy cited a different reason for letting his kid brother employ his credit card, but obliged nonetheless.
"He made more money than I did," Sandy said, laughing. "He's the Hall of Famer. He has to take care of it."