Omar Vizquel is going to be 44 next season… and he has a contract to play for the White Sox.
He will be a mentor to the talented young infielders with Chicago. Gordon Beckham at second, Alexei Ramirez at short and Dayan Viciedo at third could be as talented a collection of infielders as you will see in the bigs… and each can learn a little from the master.
Vizquel will always be considered one of the great defensive shortstops in history. And a few years ago I made the case that he belongs in the Hall of Fame regardless of his offensive short comings. He was a good hitter, but his defense and the number of hits and runs he took away I felt put him over the top.
If he can get 201 more hits, that won’t be an issue.
He sits at 2,799 career hits. 201 more gives him 3,000 and the issue is closed. No using his 11 Gold Gloves as his resume highlight.
Obviously he isn’t going to get 201 in 2011 unless he suddenly becomes Ichiro.
But if he gets around 95 hits like he did this past season in Chicago, then it will almost be a foregone conclusion that he will play in 2012 and make a run at it.
He’s played 22 seasons already and if he got 10 more hits each of those years, he’d be past 3,000 already. This reminds me of the Harold Baines dilemma and how close HE came to 3,000 and Cooperstown. But unlike Baines, who by the end of his career didn’t need to OWN a glove, Vizquel remained the gold standard (literally) BECAUSE of his glove, adding to his trophy case as recently as 2006.
The only thing with more range than his defense is the time that Omar stretched across in baseball.
He was a rookie in 1989 with the Seattle Mariners. That was the same year that another rookie named Ken Griffey Jr. made the squad and a minor leaguer named Randy Johnson came over from Montreal. Could that team have had three Hall of Famers on the roster?
Hall of Famers such as George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Carlton Fisk, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Jim Rice were all still active when he broke in… as were names from another era like Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez, Chet Lemon and Tommy John.
He was a teammate with Ken Griffey Sr on the Mariners… and with Tim Lineccum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval on the Giants... and with Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Neftali Feliz and C. J. Wilson on the Giants... connecting both 2010 World Series teams with the Big Red Machine.
And was as vital a part of the great Cleveland revival in 1995 as any of the (probably juiced up) sluggers.
He already has more hits than Ozzie Smith, the other standard of shortstop wizardry.
Stick around Omar. Stay in shape. (Clearly Vizquel wasn’t on the juice!) And get 201 more hits… then rehearse that Cooperstown speech.