- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2007

.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.

TIM LEMKE: Place Omar Vizquel on the short list of players whose glovework has earned them a ticket to Cooperstown. Even if you take away his 2,500 hits and

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.


PATRICK STEVENS: There are plenty of ways to measure a player’s Hall candidacy, and it doesn’t matter which one is applied to Vizquel. He falls short on all of them, Gold Gloves or no.

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.

Well, that’s a fairly easy argument to puncture. Ozzie Smith wasn’t just the best defensive shortstop of his era. He was the best of all time .

According to Bill James’ Win Shares book, Smith was the best defensive shortstop in the National League 10 times. James ranks him as an A+ fielder. (Smith also won 13 Gold Glove awards, which is almost meaningless.)

Omar Vizquel was the best defensive shortstop in the league three times, two of those with the Seattle Mariners. James ranks him as a B- fielder. Shortstops from Vizquel’s era who were better fielders than him: Tony Fernandez, Greg Gagne, Alex S. Gonzalez, Ozzie Guillen, Barry Larkin, Rey Ordonez and Rey Sanchez.

Vizquel has also won 11 Gold Glove awards, which is really meaningless. Gold Glove awards often go to the flashiest fielder at his position. Both Smith and Vizquel fall into this category. But Smith was also the best at everything else — range, positioning, arm strength, ability to turn the double play. Vizquel has often been the flashiest shortstop, the most spectacular, but rarely the best.

Vizquel’s last two Gold Glove awards in 2005 and 2006 are especially egregious. First, Adam Everett of the Houston Astros is clearly the best defensive shortstop in the National League. Second, Vizquel was 38 and 39 those seasons, and it almost impossible to believe that a player of that age would be the best at the most demanding defensive position. He made a combined 12 errors in those two seasons, but that’s because he no longer has any range. Vizquel’s offensive resume: He scored 100 runs twice, stole 30 bases four times and hit .300 once. That’s it.

He was never among the top 10 players in his league. He should not be in the Hall of Fame.

LACY LUSK: Overshadowed by the offensive shortstops of his era, Vizquel falls just a little bit short even with his 2,500 hits. Much like Ozzie Smith, he turned himself into a decent hitter, but he’s still a slightly less rich man’s Ozzie.

MARK ZUCKERMAN: If you’re going to get into the Hall of Fame based on defense, you better have something else to go along with it. Sure, Vizquel was the best defensive shortstop in the AL for a decade (he’s got 11 Gold Gloves). But what else does he have on the resume? A .275 career average? Three All-Star appearances? No top-10 finishes in MVP voting? Even his 369 stolen bases rank only fifth among active players. And he never won the big one, hitting .198 in five LCS and World Series. A great defense player, yes. One of the greatest players in the history of the game? No.

COREY MASISAK: Defining defensive excellence has never been easy, and even the advancements in this Enlightened Age of statistical evaluation on the defensive side are in their infancy. Vizquel has a lot of Gold Gloves and the highest fielding percentage among shortstops. But he also has a pretty weak offensive resume. Ozzie Smith and Bill Mazeroski are in the Hall of Fame as defense-first players. But both of them are pretty universally regarded as the best of all time at their respective positions. Vizquel may be one of the best, but Smith’s reputation is certainly superior. His numbers are better than Smith’s but the Wizard of Oz did augment his with 580 stolen bases. And Maz had that home run, of course. Maybe if Vizquel had started his career five years earlier and/or played in the National League, he would have more all-star appearances - but he might also have less Gold Gloves.

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