I realize that in the wake of Randy Johnson’s 300th win, Tom Glavine being released by the Braves and John Smoltz poised to make his return to the big leagues…this isn’t the sexiest Hall of Fame discussion.
But did you know that Texas Ranger Omar Vizquel is one base knock away from tying Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio for most hits by Venezuelan born player?
Yeah…I didn’t think so.
I was watching the Rangers take on Boston last weekend and as they talked about Vizquel closing in on Aparicio on the “most hits by a Venezuelan” list (they made no mention of him closing in on “most hits by a shortstop”), I was reminded of a similar situation almost two years ago.
You see, then, I was watching the Red Sox face off against the Giants and the announcers were talking about whether or not Vizquel is a Hall of Famer. Without hesitation, all three of the announcers agreed that he would make it in on the first ballot.
They compared his numbers (both offensive and defensive) to Ozzie Smith, talked about Vizquel’s 11 Gold Gloves (9 consecutive at one point) and again, compared his to Ozzie’s thirteen in a row.
They quoted former Cardinals skipper Whitey Herzog (who once said something along the lines of…“Smith might not knock in 100 runs in a season, but he’ll save you that many”), and even had a highlight reel cut together showing how both he and Vizquel saved runs for their respective teams.
As mentioned, the most compelling case for Vizquel’s enshrinement is the similarity between his numbers and those of Smith.
Both are slap hitters with okay career averages (.273 for Omar, .262 for Ozzie). Both of them amassed a good amount of hits (2676 and counting for Omar, 2460 for Ozzie). And both of them had some success in the post season.
I know it’s a long shot and not likely, but should Vizquel play until he is 45 (he is 42 now and a backup in Texas), he’ll be closing in on 3000 and virtually a lock for Cooperstown.
Not bad for a guy who, since 1989, has been in and out of the lineup solely for his glove, right?
When the Hall came calling for Carlton Fisk (a second ballot guy only because of the competition he was up against), everyone cited his longevity at one position, so is it safe to say the conversation will be the same for Vizquel?
He is currently the leader for games played at shortstop and is the career leader for being part of most double plays than any other fielder.
Not too shabby.
Fielding percentage…how ‘bout it?
This is something the writers will look at…and, frankly, they should.
The awe inspiring fielding and sheer volume Gold Gloves should speak for themselves (sorry Jim Kaat), but when push comes to shove…the Hall will look to those already enshrined for a basis of comparison.
Vizquel has a career .985 fielding percentage at shortstop…nice!
Compare that to the slick fielding “Wizard of Oz” (.978) and “Little O’s” inclusion is starting to look pretty good. Compare it to Aparicio (.972) and Pee Wee Reese (.962) and you should start reserving room for Omar’s plaque.
At one time, he also shared the American League record for consecutive errorless games at shortstop (95) with Cal Ripken, Jr.
This guy is a no brainer, right?!?
The biggest reason why Omar Vizquel won’t get elected into the Hall of Fame on his first try is that he will be greatly overshadowed by the other names on the ballot.
There just won’t be enough votes to go around.
When Vizquel is eligible for Hall consideration he could very well be going up against Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman and Gary Sheffield.
Honestly, I could probably add a dozen more names to that list…but not all of them would be as Hall worthy. Furthermore, you can’t rule out long time ballot standards getting their fair share of the votes.
Hell, Bruce Sutter finally made it in on his thirteenth attempt and it took Jim Rice fifteen tries!
You can look at Omar Vizquel and see that he is the only shortstop to come around in some time that is Hall worthy. However, if you figure that when it is time for his name to come up for selection, Derek Jeter will have staked his claim as the “Best Shortstop Ever” and the gold standard for the position will be a 6’3” pretty boy with 300 career bombs.
Not a 5’9” Venezuelan who couldn’t get his hands on Minka Kelly’s ass if he paid for it on eBay.
But I digress.
When it is all said and done, Omar Vizquel will find his way into Cooperstown. Not on the first ballot like Ozzie Smith…and maybe not even on the fifth or sixth ballot like Luis Aparicio. Hopefully, and unlike Pee Wee Reese, he’ll be there before the Veteran’s Committee gets its say.
Any way you slice it…he was better than all three and deserves his spot on the wall.