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.275/.341/.359, 73 HR, 829 RBI, 369 SB
Omar Vizquel is one of the slickest fielders at shortstop not only of his era but probably of all time, although comparing defense with historical data is next to impossible. He has 11 Gold Gloves, which is second only to Ozzie Smith at the position. Most of his offensive numbers are superior to those put up by the Wizard of Oz, but does that make Vizquel Hall of Fame worthy?
Vizquel was an all-star three times, a number that would have been higher had he not played in the AL with A-Rod, Nomar and Jeter. Still, Vizquel’s numbers at the plate aren’t THAT much better than Smith‘s, and Vizquel’s defense, while great, is not considered the gold standard like Smith’s is. Our panel says it wasn’t enough.
YES: 2 NO: 5
JOHN TAYLOR: It gets tricky when you deal with players known primarily for their defense. Vizquel, though, has made it a bit easier for the voters, however, by winning 11 Gold Glove awards and getting selected to three All-Star games. Perhaps the best player to compare him to is Ozzie Smith, the Wizard, who was inducted into the Hall in 2002. Vizquel has out-performed the Wiz in nearly every signifigant offensive category except for stolen bases. On a personal/anecdotal note, I felt perfectly safe holding my friend’s baby boy in my lap during this past Spring Training, sitting in the first row out in Arizona, right behind the Giants’ first baseman of the day. With Vizquel slinging the ball across the infield, we had nothing to worry about except for sunburn. Vizquel gets my vote.
369 stolen bases, Vizquel is a Hall of Famer because he has simply been the best fielder at any position since Ozzie Smith left St. Louis. Consider that in 2000, Vizquel committed just three errors during the entire year, tying a Major League record for shortstops. In 2004, he tied a National League record for shortstops by committing just four miscues. His .984 career fielding percentage is a record for a shortstop. And Vizquel is no Mike Bordick; he routinely gets to balls that many shortstops can’t even reach. His combination of range and consistency is rivaled by few in the game’s history, and recent advancements in defensive statistics further advance the case of Vizquel as one of the best fielders of the modern era.
Was he ever the best player at his position? Nope. Was he ever considered one of the best players in the league? Well, that single eighth-place vote in the 1999 MVP balloting aside, never. Did he ever lead the league in a meaningful category? Not unless sacrifice bunts count. Digging a bit deeper, was he ever even league-average in OPS? Well, twice (1999 and 2002).
Good for him.
He is the second coming of countryman (and idol) Dave Concepcion : A slick-fielding player who populated some powerful lineups throughout his career. The offensive numbers are a bit nicer than Concepcion‘s, but he needed to create a lot more runs to earn a Hall pass.
At the end of the day, Bart Simpson is still getting a heck of a deal if he gives up a beat-up Vizquel card for a Carl Yastrzemski. One of them belongs in Cooperstown; the other should need a ticket like nearly everyone else.
KEVIN BREWER: Omar Vizquel is not a Hall of Famer. He’s not even close. I’m assuming the case for Vizquel goes something like this: He is the best defensive shortstop of his era, just like Ozzie Smith, and Smith is in the Hall of Fame.
By Emily Miller
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