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Hall of Fame Case: Omar Vizquel

Omar Vizquel is on the ballot for the fifth year. While he started out great, he saw his support wane as he went from 49.1 percent in 2021 to 19.5 percent last year. Vizquel is one of the most polarizing players to hit the ballot in a while. Especially with domestic violence and sexual harassment cases against him. He doesn’t have the PED stigma, but there are many people out there who believe his defense gets him in. On the other side, many believe his lack of offense is too much of a detriment despite his defensive prowess. Where do you stand? Let’s take a look at his career.


Career Summary

Omar Enrique Vizquel was originally signed in 1984 by the Seattle Mariners out of Venezuela. He made his debut in 1989 and played for five years with the Mariners before being traded to the Cleveland Indians for Felix Fermin and Reggie Jefferson after winning the first of his nine consecutive Gold Gloves in 1993. He was never known for his bat, but he started to at least provide some offense when he got to Cleveland.


After an up-and-down 1994, Vizquel set career-highs in most offensive categories to that point including stealing 29 bases. He helped the Indians to the World Series in 1995 and 1997 providing adequate offense along with his slick fielding. Vizquel had his best season in 1999 when he hit .333, scored 112 runs, and stole 42 bases. After that season, the shortstop played for five more years with Cleveland, won two more Gold Gloves, and made his last All-Star appearance in 2002.


In November 2004 Vizquel signed a three-year deal with the San Francisco Giants. He won two more Gold Gloves bringing his career total to 11. Although his offense was never something he was known for, he started to tail off after 2006. Vizquel still re-signed with the Giants for another year after 2007 and started showing his age as a 40-year-old in 2008. He went on to play for the Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays. The 24-year veteran retired after the 2012 season.


The Case for Vizquel

Vizquel played for a long time at a grueling position. He played 2,709 games at shortstop which is the most all-time. His 130 Total Zone Runs according to Baseball-Reference is fifth all-time and his fielding percentage of .9847 edges out Troy Tulowitzki for the best ever. With 2,877 hits and a solid .272 career batting average, Vizquel puts himself in some good company offensively as far as totals go. He also stole 404 bases in his career which makes him one of 75 players ever to eclipse 400.


The Case Against Vizquel

Vizquel’s totals look good, but the fact he played for 24 seasons and nearly 3,000 games makes them a little more cumulative than indicative. He played in an offensive era and was only over 100 OPS+ twice. The comparison we see so often is to Ozzie Smith. So let’s do a little table:


Smith (1978-1993)

Vizquel (1992-2007)

Plate Appearances

9,902

9,584

Hits

2,254

2,352

Runs

1,154

1,231

Stolen Bases

563

368

Slash Line

.262/.338/.328

.280/.346/.367

BB/K

992/542

850/852

OPS+

88

87

TZR

219

143

rWAR/fWAR

74.0/62.2

41.4/40.3

While the hitting was virtually the same when adjusting for park and era, Smith’s baserunning and fielding were far better than Vizquel’s.


Verdict

If you are hoping to get into the Hall of Fame on defensive prowess, you had better be the best. Mark Belanger was incredible and couldn’t hit a lick. Vizquel was a better hitter than the Baltimore Orioles long-time shortstop, but he wasn’t nearly as well-rounded of a player as Ozzie. Vizquel’s offense was not very good, his baserunning was overrated, and his defense didn’t put him high enough to warrant induction.


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