Omar Vizquel

Omar Enrique Vizquel González (Spanish pronunciation: [oˈmaɾ βisˈkel]; born April 24, 1967), nicknamed "Little O", is a Venezuelan former professional baseball shortstop. During his 24-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career, Vizquel played for the Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays. In Venezuela he played for Leones del Caracas. From 2014 to 2017, he was the Detroit Tigers' first-base, infield and baserunning coach.

Widely considered one of baseball's all-time best fielding shortstops, Vizquel won eleven Gold Glove Awards, including nine consecutive from 1993–2001. Among shortstops, his .985 fielding percentage is tied for highest all-time, he is the all-time leader in games played, and the all-time leader in double plays turned. Vizquel tied Cal Ripken, Jr.'s American League record for most consecutive games at shortstop without an error (95, between September 26, 1999 and July 21, 2000), since surpassed.[1] Vizquel is the all-time hits leader among players from Venezuela (2,877; 43rd all-time), and the shortstop with the third-most hits all time, behind Derek Jeter and Honus Wagner. Vizquel is the sacrifice hit leader of the live-ball era.

At the time of his retirement, Vizquel was the oldest player in the Major Leagues, and the only active player with service time in the 1980s. He is one of only 29 players in baseball history to play in Major League games in four decades, and the only one who played shortstop. On May 7, 2012, Vizquel became the oldest player to play at shortstop in the Major League history, surpassing Bobby Wallace, who played 12 games with the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 44 in 1918.[2]

Omar Vizquel
Omar Vizquel on April 26, 2012
Vizquel with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012
Shortstop
Born: April 24, 1967 (age 51)
Caracas, Venezuela
Batted: Switch Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 3, 1989, for the Seattle Mariners
Last MLB appearance
October 3, 2012, for the Toronto Blue Jays
MLB statistics
Batting average.272
Hits2,877
Home runs80
Runs batted in951
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Professional career

Seattle Mariners

Vizquel started his career with the Leones del Caracas of the Venezuelan Winter League together with Tony Armas, Bo Díaz and Andrés Galarraga. He learned to switch hit from Bill Plummer who managed Vizquel with the Leones del Caracas, in 1986-87 and 1988-89, and coached and managed the Mariners. Originally signed by the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent in 1984, Vizquel made his Major League debut on April 3, 1989. Batting ninth in the lineup, he went 0-for-3 while making five assists, a double play and an error in a 3-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics. [3] Three nights later, he collected his first career hit in the third inning against Storm Davis with a single, later scoring on a Darnell Coles double, although the Mariners lost 11-3 to the Athletics. [4]

Cleveland Indians

At the end of the 1993 season, Vizquel was traded by the Mariners to the Indians for Félix Fermín, Reggie Jefferson, and cash. The specialized sports press, such as Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and Baseball Digest, and sports observers, including writers Dom Forker, Cliff Eastham, Wayne Stewart, Michael Pellowski and others, have recognized Vizquel and second baseman Roberto Alomar as one of the top all-time defensive duos in the history of baseball.

During Vizquel's career in Cleveland, the Indians made it to the World Series twice, losing to the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and to the Florida Marlins in 1997. Vizquel is a lifetime .250 hitter in 57 postseason games.

Vizquel won nine consecutive Gold Gloves with the Mariners and Indians, starting with his first in 1993 with Seattle and continuing until 2001. Alex Rodriguez broke Vizquel's streak and won the award in 2002. Vizquel won two additional Gold Gloves in 2005 and 2006 with the San Francisco Giants.

In 1999, Vizquel hit over .300 and scored 100 runs for the first time in his career, finishing the season with a .333 batting average and 112 runs scored for an Indians team that scored a league-leading 1,009 runs. Vizquel hit second in the line-up between lead-off man Kenny Lofton and third-place hitter Alomar in the most productive offensive line-up in Cleveland baseball history. This line-up also included power hitters Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.

On August 5, 2001, Vizquel hit a three-run triple in the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners to tie the game 14–14, capping a comeback from a 14–2 deficit. The Indians went on to win 15–14 in eleven innings, tying the record for the largest comeback win in history. Vizquel reached career highs in 2002 hitting 14 homers and 72 RBI, but his success was interrupted by the need for surgery on his right knee. He tied the 2002 All-Star Game 7–7 with an RBI triple in the eighth inning. As a result of his knee injury in 2002 and a follow-up operation, he appeared in only 64 games in 2003. In a game on May 27, 2003, Vizquel had a straight steal of home against the Detroit Tigers. He caught Tigers pitcher Steve Avery by surprise and made it home without a throw. Vizquel returned in 2004 to hit .291 in 148 games. At the end of the season, Vizquel was signed by the Giants as a free agent.

Omar Vizquel at Wrigley Field
Vizquel with the San Francisco Giants in 2008.

San Francisco Giants

On June 23, 2007 the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame inducted Vizquel, along with former Giants outfielder Matty Alou, into its Hall of Fame during an on-field, pre-game ceremony. For the 13th and final time, Vizquel finished in the top ten in sacrifice hits, having 14 to finish 2nd along with John Maine behind Juan Pierre.

Vizquel underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on February 27, 2008. He started the 2008 season on the disabled list and played in his first game on May 10. Vizquel stole home for the second time in his career against Oakland Athletics pitcher Greg Smith on June 13.

Vizquel won the Hutch Award and the Willie Mac Award, and was a finalist for the Heart & Hustle Award. Only two other players, Dave Dravecky and Craig Biggio, have won more than one of these awards, although Willie McCovey himself won the Hutch Award before having the Willie Mac Award named for him.

Vizquel was Greg Maddux's 3000th strikeout victim on July 26, 2005.[5]

Texas Rangers

On January 21, 2009, Vizquel signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers[6] and made the team's major league roster. He served mainly as a backup middle infielder. In 62 games with the Rangers, he had 47 hits, 17 runs, 14 RBIs with a .266 batting average and a .660 OPS to go with 27 strikeouts and 13 walks. In each of the three positions (shortstop, third base, second base) he played with the team, he made no errors. He played 27 games at shortstop for 196.2 innings, making 32 putouts and 76 assists with 22 double plays turned; he appeared in 20 games at third base for 101 innings, having five putouts and 22 assists, while making 23 putouts and 49 assists at second base.

Chicago White Sox

On November 23, 2009, Vizquel agreed to a one-year contract with the Chicago White Sox worth $1.4 million.[7] After making the deal official, former shortstop and White Sox legend Luis Aparicio asked that his number 11 be temporarily "unretired" for Vizquel during the 2010 season,[8] mostly due to the fact that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén — like Vizquel and Aparicio, a Venezuelan shortstop — had rights to #13, the number Vizquel has worn through his career.

On May 25, 2010, Vizquel became the shortstop with the second most hits all time, behind Derek Jeter. On June 25, he hit his first home run of 2010, putting him on the short list of players who have hit home runs in four different decades (with Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, and Rickey Henderson). On November 2, 2010, Vizquel signed a one-year deal to remain in Chicago.[9] On April 3, 2011, Vizquel got a single for his 2,800th career hit. Despite being well into his forties, Vizquel was still regarded as one of the better defensive shortstops in the game and seen by his former White Sox teammates as one of the most physically fit.[10]

Toronto Blue Jays

Vizquel signed a 1-year minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2012 season. He made the team out of spring training, and made his first appearance on Opening Day, against his former club, the Cleveland Indians. His first start came on April 22, against the Kansas City Royals. Vizquel was ejected from a game against the Texas Rangers on May 1, arguing with the home plate umpire from the bench. Vizquel jokingly danced to mock the umpire before exiting the dugout.[11] Vizquel hinted at retirement upon the conclusion of the 2012 season. Despite being 45 years of age and appearing in only five games at that point in the season with the Blue Jays, he stated "I feel excited about coming to the ballpark. Maybe not every day, because there are going to be some days you're going to be sore. But I still feel I want to be here. I want to compete."[12]

In a game against the Detroit Tigers on July 27, Vizquel hit his first two extra-base hits of the season, a double and triple. Vizquel became the third oldest player to hit a triple (behind Julio Franco and Nick Altrock) and became the oldest player in major league history to hit a double and a triple in the same game.[13]

In the first game of a day-night doubleheader against the New York Yankees on September 19, Vizquel recorded his 2,874th career hit, passing Babe Ruth for 41st all-time.[14]

In the final game of the 2012 season, Brett Lawrie wore a #17 jersey as opposed to his usual #13. This allowed Vizquel to wear #13 (the number he wore through most of his career) when he played his final game on October 3, 2012. Vizquel went 1 for 3, hitting a single in his last at bat, the 2,877th hit of his career moving him ahead of Mel Ott for 40th position on the all-time hits list. Vizquel retired after the season and was the last position player born in the 1960s, as well as the last to play in the 1980s, to retire.

Coaching

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

On January 30, 2013, Vizquel was hired by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to become a co-infield coach with Bobby Knoop, to replace Dick Schofield, whose contract was not renewed for 2013.[15]

Detroit Tigers

Omar Vizquel coaching first base in 2017 (cropped)
Vizquel as first-base coach of the Detroit Tigers in 2017

On November 18, 2013, the Detroit Tigers named Vizquel as their new first-base coach, replacing Rafael Belliard. Under manager Brad Ausmus, Vizquel also served as the Tigers infield and baserunning instructor.[16] Following the dismissal of Ausmus after the 2017 season, Vizquel interviewed for the vacant manager's position, but was passed over in favor of Ron Gardenhire.

Chicago White Sox

In November 2017 Vizquel returned to the White Sox organization to manage their Class A-Advanced team, the Winston-Salem Dash.[17] In December 2018 Vizquel was promoted to manage the White Sox' Class AA team, the Birmingham Barons.[18]

Personal life

Vizquel96
Vizquel during his tenure with the Indians in 1996.

Vizquel is active in community service, having served as an honorary spokesperson for "Young Audiences", an arts education organization in Cleveland, and "Schools Now", which raises funds through the sale of entertainment booklets. Following the 1999 Vargas mudslide disaster that killed 25,000 in his native Venezuela, Vizquel volunteered for the relief effort and helped raise over $500,000 for the cause.[19] Vizquel has held various charitable events in downtown Cleveland such as Tribe Jam, where he and some other teammates get together with each other or with retired singers and sing some of their favorite songs.

His 2002 autobiography, Omar!: My Life on and Off the Field, which he co-wrote with Bob Dyer,[20] spent four weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List. It was released in paperback in 2003.

Vizquel is referenced in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Bart's Friend Falls in Love" (May 1992). In the episode, Bart takes a distracted Milhouse's Carl Yastrzemski baseball card in exchange for one of Vizquel with the head cut out.[21]

Vizquel married Nicole, a Seattle native, in 1992.[22] They later divorced, and Vizquel married Blanca Garcia in July 2014.[23]

Feud with José Mesa

A long-running and well-publicized feud erupted between Vizquel and former teammate and friend José Mesa. In 2002, following the publication of his autobiography, Omar! My Life On and Off the Field, Vizquel criticized Mesa's performance in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series:

"The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made. Unfortunately, Jose's own eyes were vacant. Completely empty. Nobody home. You could almost see right through him. Not long after I looked into his vacant eyes, he blew the save and the Marlins tied the game."

[24] Mesa reacted furiously, pledging to hit Vizquel upon every subsequent opportunity:

"Even my little boy told me to get him. If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. I want to kill him."

On June 12, 2002, Mesa hit Vizquel with a pitch in the ninth inning. Mesa was not ejected and finished the game.[25] They did not face each other again until 2006; by then, Vizquel was with the San Francisco Giants and Mesa was playing for the Colorado Rockies. When Vizquel came to bat against Mesa in Denver on April 22, Mesa hit him again. Meeting three more times in 2006, however, Vizquel escaped being hit by his former teammate, with two groundouts and an RBI single. Vizquel batted .333 (7-for-21) against Mesa before Mesa's retirement in 2007.[26]

Baseball records and accomplishments

Defense

  • All-time leader in double plays made while playing shortstop
  • 11-time Gold Glove recipient
  • Oldest shortstop recipient of the Gold Glove (age 38 in 2005, and again at age 39 in 2006)
  • Highest career fielding percentage by a shortstop (0.9846) with at least 1,000 games played
  • Lowest number of errors in a season by a shortstop (tie) (3 in the 2000 season)
  • 6th in assists all-time, 3rd in assists at SS all-time

Offense

  • All-time leader in hits by a player from Venezuela[27]
  • The 47th major league player to reach 2,800 career hits (April 3, 2011)
  • At retirement was the second-most hits by an active (roster) player behind Derek Jeter, was the category leader for the 2008 and a portion of the 2009 seasons, 47th all-time
  • At retirement had the most singles by an active (roster) player, 20th all-time
  • At retirement had the most at-bats by an active (roster) player, 19th all-time
  • Fifth all-time in sacrifice hits plus sacrifice flies behind Eddie Collins, Jake Daubert, Stuffy McInnis and Willie Keeler
  • All-time leader in sacrifice hits in the live-ball era, and four-time league leader (1997, 1999, 2004 & 2005)
  • Likely 5th to 7th all-time in sacrifice hits after accounting for the 1954 statistical change (40th all-time without adjustment)
  • At retirement, had the second-most sacrifice flies by an active (roster) player behind Alex Rodriguez, 50th all-time (tie)
  • At retirement had the third most stolen bases by an active (roster) player behind Juan Pierre and Carl Crawford, 68th all-time
  • American League record holder (tie) for most hits in a nine-inning game: Vizquel hit six on August 31, 2004
  • Second-most hits while playing shortstop (behind Derek Jeter)
  • Fourth-most runs while playing shortstop all-time (behind Herman Long, Derek Jeter and Bill Dahlen)
  • Seventh-most stolen bases while playing shortstop all-time (behind Bert Campaneris, Ozzie Smith, Herman Long, Luis Aparicio, Honus Wagner, and Bill Dahlen)
  • At retirement had most seasons by active player as a batting title qualifier with isolated power (extra bases per at-bat) under .100, with 12
  • 43rd all-time in career hits (2,877)

Overall

See also

Notes

Sources

  • "Vizquel an artist at work" by Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports, May 24, 2006.
  • "Older players make final bids for Hall of Fame" by Mel Antonen, USA TODAY, July 27, 2006.
  • "Last call for the Hall" by Gary Kaufman, Salon.com, July 26, 2000.
  • "ALL SYSTEMS O!" by Bill Livingston, The Plain Dealer, September 26, 2004.
  • Omar Vizquel and Bob Dyer (2002). Omar!: My Life on and Off the Field. Gray & Company Publishers. ISBN 978-1-886228-55-9.
  • Hits/runs/games-while-playing-shortstop calculated using statistics at BaseballReference.com.

References

  1. ^ "Cooperstown Bound? – Omar Vizquel". Washington Times. June 11, 2008. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  2. ^ "Vizquel sets mark as oldest to play shortstop". Toronto Blue Jays. MLB. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  3. ^ https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK198904030.shtml
  4. ^ https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK198904060.shtml
  5. ^ http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/2005/B07260CHN2005.htm
  6. ^ "Vizquel signs with Rangers". Texas.rangers.mlb.com. Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  7. ^ https://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jl1XX7vou7vc_5xsi8UBHw00z6IAD9C5INJ00. Retrieved November 24, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Scott Merkin (February 8, 2010). "Vizquel to wear Aparicio's No. 11". MLB.com. Retrieved February 8, 2010.
  9. ^ Scott Merkin (November 2, 2010). "Vizquel returning to White Sox on one-year deal". MLB.com. Archived from the original on January 8, 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  10. ^ "Omar Vizquel has had a magical career – ESPN". Espn.go.com. September 24, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  11. ^ "Blue Jays INF Omar Vizquel ejected for arguing balls and strikes from dugout". Washington Post. Associated Press. May 2, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  12. ^ Morosi, John Paul (May 2, 2012). "Omar Vizquel pondering retirement". Fox Sports.com. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  13. ^ "Vizquel: A Double, a Triple, and a First". ESPN.com. July 28, 2012. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
  14. ^ Toman, Chris (September 19, 2012). "Hit No. 2,874 moves Vizquel past Ruth". MLB.com. Archived from the original on September 22, 2012. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
  15. ^ Gonzalez, Alden (January 30, 2013). "Angels hire Vizquel as infield instructor". MLB.com. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  16. ^ Omar Vizquel to be Part of Tigers' Coaching Staff MLB.com, November 18, 2013
  17. ^ Omar Vizquel to manage White Sox’ Class A team Chicago Sun-Times, November 20, 2017
  18. ^ White Sox promoting Omar Vizquel to manager of Double-A affiliate NBC Sports, December 11, 2018
  19. ^ "Venezuelan Baseball Legend Omar Vizquel Set to Retire « Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the U.S". Venezuela-us.org. June 28, 2012. Archived from the original on May 22, 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  20. ^ "BARNES & NOBLE | Omar!: My Life On and Off the Field by Omar Vizquel, Gray & Company, Publishers | Hardcover". Barnesandnoble.com. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  21. ^ "Here's the drill – Chicago Tribune". Chicago Tribune. November 23, 2009. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  22. ^ Sherwin, Bob (February 19, 1994). "Ex-Mariner Vizquel Adjusting To New Baseball Family". Seattle Times. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  23. ^ "Omar Vizquel se casó". elmundo.com.ve (in Spanish). July 24, 2014. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  24. ^ "ESPN.com: MLB – Vizquel-Mesa feud hits a high point". Static.espn.go.com. July 16, 2003. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  25. ^ Stapleton, Arnie (April 24, 2006). "Rocky contest marred by plenty of ejections". Deseret News. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  26. ^ "Omar Vizquel Batting Against José Mesa – Baseball-Reference PI". Baseball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on July 20, 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  27. ^ "Vizquel becomes Venezuelean Hits King". Mlb.mlb.com. Retrieved September 3, 2012.

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