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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Livingston: Omar Vizquel and baseball’s summer song

Don Omar presenta…

Omar—it was always his first name, not “Vizquel” to fans—was talking over the weekend about being inducted into the Indians’ Hall of Fame in the summer. It shouldn’t stop there. He belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame more than anyone else on the great 1990s Tribe teams.

Even then, as great a player as he was, he was a better ambassador for the game. Because he so clearly was having fun, he let us share in it. I put him on the short list of the most memorable players I’ve covered in over four decades as a newspaperman.

Albert Belle would be on the list, too. In 1995, he was a distillate of concentration, power and rage. He wasn’t very likable, but I’ve never seen any other player who simply did not miss mistake pitches. Belle didn’t, not in that shortened 144-game season in which he hit 50 homers and 52 doubles. Great as Belle was, though, the shadows he brought with him turned sunny days into gray ones.

Because of his temper tantrums, bat-corking and clubhouse disruptions, Belle has already failed to get enough baseball writers’ votes to stay on the Cooperstown ballot.

...We knew with Omar. He made you disbelieve your eyes with 11 Gold Gloves, more than anyone but Ozzie Smith, with nine of them with the Indians.

Even on the 1990s Indians, there were doubts and objections with so many others. There were the steroids later in Manny Ramirez’s career (and it would be no surprise if that weren’t true during his Tribe years too).

There were too many sullen interviews with Kenny Lofton, who was not the defensive player Vizquel was because Lofton often simply outran his mistakes.

There was the same old, same old with the big money making the difference when Jim Thome left town.

Repoz Posted: January 30, 2014 at 05:32 PM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, indians

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   1. madvillain Posted: January 30, 2014 at 05:53 PM (#4648953)
Don't have time for the media's often asinine questions + dark skin = sullen. Every. Single. Time. Frank Thomas got the same thing. And damn that Kenny Lofton for not being Willy Mays amazing at tracking balls, dude had to rely on his speed, ugh, suppress the gag reflex.
   2. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: January 30, 2014 at 06:05 PM (#4648958)
If he reads this column, Omar will do everything he can never to be alone with Bill Livingston.
   3. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: January 30, 2014 at 06:13 PM (#4648961)
And so it begins...
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 30, 2014 at 06:16 PM (#4648966)
You know, those great 90's Indians teams had a guy who is already in the Hall of Fame - Robbie Alomar.
   5. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 30, 2014 at 06:21 PM (#4648968)
The Baseball Hall of Fame is going to include Omar Vizquel, Jack Morris and Bud Selig, but not [redacted], [redacted] and [redacted]. As the great philosopher Richard Flair said, "Woooo! Learn to love it!"
   6. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 30, 2014 at 06:35 PM (#4648978)

I don't think Vizquel will ever make the Hall of Fame. Simply too many other great players who aren't in yet.

I do love the fact that Omar wrote an autobiography when he still had more than a decade of his career still to go...
   7. cmd600 Posted: January 30, 2014 at 07:55 PM (#4649038)
You know, those great 90's Indians teams had a guy who is already in the Hall of Fame - Robbie Alomar.


Alomar played with the Indians for all of one year in the 90s.

Cleveland fans get all bubbly inside when they think of Vizquel though. It makes me legitimately question where the line is between Hall of Fame versus Best Players. At least in Cleveland, Omar was famous (especially with the ladies, single or not). So, I'd guess I'd ask, how famous was Vizquel outside of Cleveland? Only a couple all star games and one year receiving MVP votes suggests that he wasn't highly regarded at all. I don't see how he's getting into the Hall, and I'd guess he's more likely to fall below the 5% ballot in the first couple years (especially if the ballot stays so crowded) than to put up a number that makes any optimistic that he'll eventually make it.
   8. Srul Itza Posted: January 30, 2014 at 08:04 PM (#4649041)
From our perspective, Omar is clearly not a Hall of Famer.

From the voters' perspective, a short stop with 11 Gold Gloves, 2,877 hits, 400 SB and 1,400 Runs might be considered vote worthy. I think if he had come up much earlier, he would have a real shot. As it is, I think the current crunch may still be in effect when he hits the ballot, and the number of far better choices could very well mean a quick exit.
   9. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: January 30, 2014 at 08:14 PM (#4649044)
Nobody thinks of them as Indians, but the 1990's teams did have Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield too, plus Jack Morris and Jeff Kent.
   10. cmd600 Posted: January 30, 2014 at 08:15 PM (#4649046)
2,877 hits, 400 SB and 1,400 Runs


Those are going to be thrown around, but by people who have no idea what they even mean, and that includes me. Should I be impressed by 1400 runs? I think we're left looking at the Gold Gloves, but lack of ASG and MVP votes.

Concepcion topped out at 16.9% after nine ASG appearances and sporting some Big Red Machine luster. I'm not sure how Vizquel tops that even without such a crowded ballot.
   11. bobm Posted: January 30, 2014 at 09:37 PM (#4649068)
He belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame more than anyone else on the great 1990s Tribe teams.

No.

Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1901 to 2013, For players in the saved report : (Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, Playing for the CLE, From 1990 to 1999, (requiring WAR_bat?10), sorted by greatest WAR Position Players: Results), sorted by greatest WAR Position Players

                                                                                                              
Rk          Player WAR/pos    G    PA    H  HR  RBI   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS        Pos                          Tm
1        Jim Thome    72.9 2543 10313 2328 612 1699 .276 .402 .554 .956       3D5H         CLE-PHI-CHW-MIN-TOT
2    Manny Ramirez    69.1 2302  9774 2574 555 1831 .312 .411 .585 .996      79D/H         CLE-BOS-TOT-LAD-TBR
3     Kenny Lofton    67.9 2103  9235 2428 130  781 .299 .372 .423 .794    *8/H7D9 HOU-ATL-CLE-TOT-NYY-PHI-LAD
4     Omar Vizquel    45.3 2968 12013 2877  80  951 .272 .336 .352 .688 *65H/4D379     SEA-CLE-SFG-TEX-CHW-TOR
5     Albert Belle    39.8 1539  6676 1726 381 1239 .295 .369 .564 .933     *79D/H                 CLE-CHW-BAL
6    Carlos Baerga    19.4 1630  5895 1583 134  774 .291 .332 .423 .754   *4H5/36D     CLE-NYM-TOT-BOS-ARI-WSN
7     Sandy Alomar    13.4 1377  4865 1236 112  588 .273 .309 .406 .716     *2/HD3     SDP-CLE-TOT-CHW-TEX-NYM
   12. bobm Posted: January 30, 2014 at 10:11 PM (#4649077)
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1901 to 2013, (requiring H>=2877, SB>=400, and R>=1400), sorted by greatest Offensive WAR

                                                
Rk             Player  oWAR    H   SB    R  dWAR
1             Ty Cobb 151.1 4189  897 2246 -10.8
2         Barry Bonds 142.7 2935  514 2227   6.7
3        Tris Speaker 123.6 3514  436 1882   2.3
4       Eddie Collins 119.7 3315  741 1821   7.8
5    Rickey Henderson 104.1 3055 1406 2295  -3.5
6        Paul Molitor  74.9 3319  504 1782  -8.1
7        Craig Biggio  74.8 3060  414 1844  -3.9
8      Frankie Frisch  56.9 2880  419 1532  21.4
9           Lou Brock  48.5 3023  938 1610 -17.1
10       Omar Vizquel  32.2 2877  404 1445  28.6

   13. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 30, 2014 at 10:19 PM (#4649081)
If Vizquel's entire career was as good as his time in Cleveland (90 OPS+) there might be an argument (not a strong one) for his Hall of Fame candidacy. However, he had 5 Seattle seasons with a 70 OPS+ before he became an Indian, and 8 more years with a 73 OPS+ after he left. Still, being a Major League SS (mostly) for 24 years is pretty impressive.
   14. Lassus Posted: January 30, 2014 at 10:37 PM (#4649091)
I was consistently mesmerized by Vizquel's fielding. On the night Pedro walked with the gods in the rain in relief in 1999 against Cleveland, I swear I saw Omar catch a high, hard bouncing ball in his right hand WHILE LOOKING AT FIRST BASE, and then make the throw to make the out. I mean, he probably didn't, but that's always how I felt watching him field. He just had a way.

It's probably not smart, and biased, and painful to many, but if Omar makes the HOF some day, I won't rage. I had that much fun watching him play.
   15. EddieA Posted: January 30, 2014 at 11:19 PM (#4649104)
I think his record for most games at ss is pretty safe. Most games at a position is significant accomplishment.
   16. Srul Itza Posted: January 30, 2014 at 11:28 PM (#4649106)
Should I be impressed by 1400 runs?


Define "impressed".

It is not a HOF number, but it indicates that somebody was a pretty good player for quite a while. Omar was not a hitter, and undoubtedly some of those gold gloves should have gone to others, but he was still a wonderful fielding short stop, who held down the position without embarrasing himself into his 40's.

I sometimes think that in denigrating players for the HOF claims made by mediots, we forget just how good major league baseball players are.

I am impressed by a short stop with longevity like Omar Vizquel. I am more impressed by other, better, players, but 40+ WAR ain't chopped liver.
   17. EddieA Posted: January 30, 2014 at 11:35 PM (#4649107)
Most games list:
c - Ivan Rodriguez
1b - Eddie Murray
2b - Eddie Collins
3b - Brooks Robinson
ss - Omar Vizquel
lf - Barry Bonds
cf - Willie Mays
rf - Roberto Clemente
of - Ty Cobb

Not going too wrong there.
   18. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: January 30, 2014 at 11:40 PM (#4649108)
Omar was a very good player for a long time. And how can you not like a guy who is willing to swallow his pride and be a bench guy for 5 seasons at the end of a long career?

He doesn't deserve the HOF, but he played the 12th most games ever, had the 17th most PA ever, and had a lot of fun.


   19. cardsfanboy Posted: January 30, 2014 at 11:49 PM (#4649110)
I'm afraid that the Vizquel hof case is going to get the Ortiz case...clearly non-deserving hof'ers who are going to get a lot of push from their fans in a misguided effort to prop them up. I'm also afraid that Vizquel is going to be another one of those arguments where the stat guys push war too heavily and the guys who knew everything they ever needed to know about baseball in 3rd grade are going to push back. Hopefully not to the Rice/Morris level though.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: January 30, 2014 at 11:51 PM (#4649111)
Only a couple all star games

In fairness, that's because he was stuck in the AL with ARod, Jeter, Nomar and Tejada. Had he been in the NL, he might have made 10 AS teams. He'd have had Smith (early) and Larkin taking the starting spot most of the time but he'd have gone over Weiss, Renteria, Gonzalez, the young Rollins not to mention years he'd have been named the 3rd SS and then his elder statesman years getting an undeserved nod or two. Granted, being 4th-5th best SS in your league for your prime is not a typical HoF argument.

Tejada made the AS team twice with the Astros?

Anyway, the case for Vizquel is not hard to make per se -- Maranville, Aparicio, Ozzie. Maranville had an 82 OPS+ and 43 WAR; Aparicio had an 82 OPS+ and 56 WAR; Ozzie had an 87 OPS+ and a boatload of WAR with otherworldly Rfield numbers. Omar had an 82 OPS+ and 46 WAR. The HoF has always had a spot for great defensive SS. The problem Omar is likely to face is that Maranville (I assume), Aparicio and Ozzie were each considered the greatest up to that point but I don't think anybody thinks Omar was better than Ozzie. But then Ozzie sailed in easily and not being as good defensively as Ozzie shouldn't disqualify you for the HoF. Voters who look at the 11 GG might well see him as being the 2nd greatest defensive SS of all time. Still, all said and done, I expect a Concepcion-like HoF history.

And no, you shouldn't be impressed by 1400 runs, especially not in that many PA. 1500 is reasonably impressive number of runs. Mr. Sullen made it over 1500 runs. That said, for guys with at least 1800 games at SS, that's 3rd all-time (Jeter, Ripken) so maybe you should be. Aparicio had 1335, Ozzie 1257 and Maranville 1255, each in many fewer PA.

(OK, probably more impressed than I give credit for. Only 66 players with 1400+ runs. Omar is one of 6 with over 1400 runs and <1000 RBI ... along with Mr. Sullen again, Brock, Raines, Carey and Hooper. Vizquel has the most PA and the 2nd fewest runs of those 6 ... about 3000 more PA than Mr. Sullen. Of course both of those players had the advantage of playing in sillyball.)

On the great Indians team question ... I'll take that to mean 1995-2001. By WAR, Omar is 4th (tied) in that time period, tied with Alomar at 20 WAR. He is well behind Thome (37 WAR), Manny and Mr. Sullen. That's among position players.

There was the same old, same old with the big money making the difference when Jim Thome left town.

Except (a) the money wasn't very big as that was the nadir of the baseball labor market "correction"; Cleveland could have afforded that contract easy. (b) they welcomed him back with open arms a couple of years ago and are now going to build a statue. This writer may be the last person in Cleveland holding his departure against Thome.
   21. Kiko Sakata Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:19 AM (#4649119)
Anyway, the case for Vizquel is not hard to make per se -- Maranville, Aparicio, Ozzie. Maranville had an 82 OPS+ and 43 WAR; Aparicio had an 82 OPS+ and 56 WAR; Ozzie had an 87 OPS+ and a boatload of WAR with otherworldly Rfield numbers. Omar had an 82 OPS+ and 46 WAR. The HoF has always had a spot for great defensive SS.


I could be overthinking this, but it seems to me that the "HoF has always had a spot for [the greatest] defensive SS." Maranville and Smith were seen as the greatest defensive SS ever when they were elected. I'm less sure if that's true of Aparicio, but he was also the leadoff hitter for two teams that won their franchise's first pennant in 20+ years and helped bring the SB back into fashion. Vizquel's problem as a Hall-level defensive SS is that he wasn't as good as Ozzie Smith (and outside of Cleveland, I think that's a pretty universally held position).

I think you can see the distinction in MVP voting. Maranville had a 2nd and a 3rd-place finish in MVP voting (a century ago under a very different system, granted). Aparicio had a 2nd and a 9th in MVP voting and got votes in 10 different seasons. Ozzie had a 2nd-place finish and got MVP votes 6 times. Omar Vizquel got MVP votes exactly once in his career, finishing in 16th place in 1999.

Vizquel will certainly do better in Hall-of-Fame voting than he will in Hall-of-Merit voting, but I'd be a little surprised if he got particularly close to actually being elected.
   22. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:43 AM (#4649124)
My money says Vizquel gets up to a good 35-40% on the BBWAA ballot before topping out, but eventually gets elected by some future version of the Veterans Committee.
   23. Random Transaction Generator Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:50 AM (#4649125)
Most games list:
c - Ivan Rodriguez
1b - Eddie Murray
2b - Eddie Collins
3b - Brooks Robinson
ss - Omar Vizquel
lf - Barry Bonds
cf - Willie Mays
rf - Roberto Clemente
of - Ty Cobb


Vizquel played with Rodriguez (2009 Rangers), Bonds (2006 Giants), and Murray (1995 Indians).
Murray played with Brooks Robinson (1977 Orioles).
Cobb played with Collins (1927 Athletics).
I can't link in Mays or Clemente to anyone directly, but they are only one connection away between themselves (Bob Priddy).

If you include most games played as a pitcher, then Jesse Orosco played with Murray (1996 Orioles).
   24. cmd600 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:55 AM (#4649130)
20 - you'd be surprised at the Thome backlash. I'd say its 50-50 here. It wasnt just the money, it was the suggestion by Thome that there would be no real need to negotiate, "you'd have to tear the shirt off his back". He was supposed to be the guy who wanted to stay, but he reallu was just like Belle and Ramirez.
   25. TJ Posted: January 31, 2014 at 01:10 AM (#4649133)
My money says Vizquel gets up to a good 35-40% on the BBWAA ballot before topping out, but eventually gets elected by some future version of the Veterans Committee.


Alan Trammell weeps...
   26. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 31, 2014 at 02:51 AM (#4649142)
I think his record for most games at ss is pretty safe. Most games at a position is significant accomplishment.

Jeter is only 165 games behind Vizquel. If 2013 hadn't been lost to injury, Jeter would have most likely broken the record this year. Still might do so in 2015. Or later.
   27. EddieA Posted: January 31, 2014 at 03:26 AM (#4649145)
True. My thought that the combination of being 40 with contract ending, a leg that broke just fielding a ground ball, and probable worsening D that may put him at DH if he still can hit, would have him thinking of retirement before he could get 165 more games as an ss. He could come back strong, or he could linger as a below average player like Vizquel did, and the Yanks could continue to insist at putting him in the field and pay a big $ contract- I think these are less likely.
   28. EddieA Posted: January 31, 2014 at 03:31 AM (#4649147)
But come to think of it, the record for games caught had Carlton Fisk playing (poorly) til he got in one more game than Bob Boone, so Jeter could target the ss record.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 31, 2014 at 09:37 AM (#4649171)
I'm afraid that the Vizquel hof case is going to get the Ortiz case...clearly non-deserving hof'ers who are going to get a lot of push from their fans in a misguided effort to prop them up. I'm also afraid that Vizquel is going to be another one of those arguments where the stat guys push war too heavily and the guys who knew everything they ever needed to know about baseball in 3rd grade are going to push back. Hopefully not to the Rice/Morris level though.

This is the problem. People act like the decision is 1) he's a HoFer or 2) he sucked.
   30. BDC Posted: January 31, 2014 at 10:07 AM (#4649181)
Vizquel spent some time with the Rangers when Elvis Andrus was a rookie, and I've always imagined Vizquel had a bit to do with Andrus's being a polished, confident player right from the start. Could be merely my imagination, but 40-something stars who enthusiastically serve as backups to talented 20-year-olds are good role models by definition.
   31. AROM Posted: January 31, 2014 at 10:12 AM (#4649182)
Omar hit better at age 43 (83 OPS+) than his average season during prime years (26-30, 81 OPS+). His best hitting years though, came in his early 30's.

I've always liked the players who do their best to defy father time.
   32. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 31, 2014 at 10:42 AM (#4649190)
Remember in May 1992, when Bart Simpson traded a card of Omar Vizquel for a Carl Yastrzemski? Vizquel went on to play more major-league seasons (24) than Yastrzemski.
   33. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 31, 2014 at 11:53 AM (#4649227)
a leg that broke just fielding a ground ball


That leg happened to be hanging by a thread all season, in case you forgot or didn't know. It would be more accurate to call it "a leg that finally snapped after 1200 innings at SS when most guys would have spent the whole season on the DL." Probably still inaccurate, mind you, but more accurate nonetheless.
   34. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 31, 2014 at 11:59 AM (#4649233)
Remember in May 1992, when Bart Simpson traded a card of Omar Vizquel for a Carl Yastrzemski? Vizquel went on to play more major-league seasons (24) than Yastrzemski.


It was still a good trade. But at least Milhous got some action.
   35. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:08 PM (#4649241)

That leg happened to be hanging by a thread all season, in case you forgot or didn't know. It would be more accurate to call it "a leg that finally snapped after 1200 innings at SS when most guys would have spent the whole season on the DL." Probably still inaccurate, mind you, but more accurate nonetheless.


Right. And that's why you shouldn't just assume The Captain will be all healthy and good to go.
   36. SoSH U at work Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4649251)
Jeter is only 165 games behind Vizquel. If 2013 hadn't been lost to injury, Jeter would have most likely broken the record this year. Still might do so in 2015. Or later.


I think it would be wonderful if Jeter spends 2016 putting the record out of reach.

   37. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:20 PM (#4649252)
Yes, that leg might well turn out to be essentially career-ending for Jeter. But that's even more reason to be clear about how it happened.
   38. Ron J2 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:32 PM (#4649258)
#20 I think it's tough to overstate how much Maranville's personal popularity helped in getting him into the HOF. Also helps to explain his surprisingly strong support in MVP voting.
   39. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4649272)
Jeter isn't going to play another 165 games at shortstop. I'd bet the under on half that many. He probably isn't going to play another 165 games, period.
   40. GregD Posted: January 31, 2014 at 01:08 PM (#4649281)
As long as Trammell gets in via the Veterans Committee, I wouldn't hate Vizquel as a VC selection. He's certainly a unique player and there aren't many people who have a career of his length or shape. There are people who are more deserving who had entirely different types of careers, and I would vote for them over Vizquel, but Vizquel doesn't raise the Jack Morris problem. There aren't 20 guys who are like him whom you should put in right away if you put him in. There are some guys who were equally or perhaps more valuable but are quite unlike him in career shape. The VC could and has done a lot worse.
   41. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 31, 2014 at 01:57 PM (#4649314)
With Jack Morris it's more like 50 guys, but yeah, it's a point.

I think Vizquel would be one of the weaker shortstops in the Hall of Fame, but not so much so that putting him in would seriously dilute the standards of the institution. It would just spark "if this guy is in why the hell isn't Alan Trammell?" He's closer to Andre Dawson than Jim Rice in that regard.
   42. GregD Posted: January 31, 2014 at 02:33 PM (#4649357)
I think Vizquel would be one of the weaker shortstops in the Hall of Fame, but not so much so that putting him in would seriously dilute the standards of the institution. It would just spark "if this guy is in why the hell isn't Alan Trammell?" He's closer to Andre Dawson than Jim Rice in that regard.
Clearly Trammell should go in immediately, like now, and long, long before Vizquel.
   43. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 31, 2014 at 03:27 PM (#4649417)
I think it's tough to overstate how much Maranville's personal popularity helped in getting him into the HOF.

Being on one's deathbed also doesn't hurt-- just ask 1961 Best Actress Elizabeth Taylor.

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