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Yuni vs. his predecessors, part 7 March 12, 2008

Posted by Brad in commentary, stats.
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The first Mariners shortstop that I can remember, and the one to which all future M’s are judged defensively

1989-1993 Omar Vizquel
Stats: .252/.309/.303 in 2,111 at bats in 5 seasons. Won the first Gold Glove for an M’s shortstop in 1993. Thereafter, he was promptly traded. I feel obligated to point out again that he had a .309 on-base percentage, but only a .303 slugging percentage. Out of his 531 hits, only 81 were extra base hits, including just 6 home runs. Vizquel had no power.

Place in M’s fandom: nigh-legendary, largely due to his “Little O” nickname. Virtually all Mariner fans feel his defense was flawless. His signature play was barehanding Ernest Riles’ chopper and throwing him out to seal Chris Bosio’s no-hitter in 1993. He won the Gold Glove that year, then was traded to the Indians for Felix Fermin. Vizquel proceeded to then win 8 more Gold Gloves in a row while also learning how to hit. In a neat trick, many M’s fans now think Vizquel was a constant Gold Glove-winning, .300 hitting shortstop with the M’s, but he wasn’t.
Sure, in spring training in 1993, then-manager Lou Piniella did say “Omar Vizquel is like an angel from heaven.” But just a year earlier then-manager Bill Plummer (the M’s went through a lot of managers in the early 1990s) was rationalizing Vizquel’s ability with quotes like “Let’s face it. You can’t have everything at every position.” And after Omar’s first season, Bob Sherwin in the Seattle Times was especially gloomy:

Here we are, 10 losing seasons later, beyond Spike Owen and Rey Quinones, and no one has dared cross the Mendoza Line. It might as well be the Maginot Line, as Mendoza’s shadow still haunts the left side of the Mariner infield… The top candidate once was Omar Vizquel, a .220 hitter last season, but he was injured in spring training and subsequently ended up in Class AAA Calgary, where he is hitting .165.

Yowch.
Vizquel did have a good season in 1992 (.294/.340/.352) to go along with his best-in-the-game defense, but he wasn’t an amazing Mariner. The M’s traded Little O far too early, clearing the spot for some “Rodriguez” guy.
After Vizquel left for Cleveland, he popped back up from time to time. In 2001, Vizquel made M’s pitcher Arthur Rhodes remove his shiny, diamond earrings in an August game. Rhodes showed his anger, and got kicked out of the game. Rhodes said “‘m not going to let a 125-pound guy tell me I can’t wear my earrings.”
Then in 2003, the M’s almost traded Carlos Guillen for Vizquel, but Little O’s knee failed a physical. It would’ve been a better trade than the ones the M’s later got for Guillen.
Wikipedia/Google: Great lines from his Wikipedia page include “Vizquel is an avid painter and sculptor, and plays the guitar, drums and sings,” and “along with his artistic pursuits, Omar also is a collector of fine art and owns several modern art pieces. Included in his collection is a glass chandelier for his home made by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly worth over $100,000.” The real kicker: “His home in Washington state is valued at over $27,000,000.” What? Well, he does have his own recording studio, where he recorded a Goo Goo Dolls cover for “Oh Say Can You Sing: Music Recordings By Major League Players.” The CD’s website lets you know that “This is a COOL project with no cheesy or campy elements allowed!” But $27 million seems steep, even though it houses his many paintings. I plugged a (likely bogus) home address I found on Google into Zillow, which valued it at just $2.5 million.
Omar also wrote an autobiography, Omar!: My Life on and Off the Field, in which he said Albert Belle cheated and Jose Mesa had vacant eyes during the World Series.
Last summer Vizquel was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame, which is a much longer award than Gold Glove.
And be sure to visit OmarVizquel.com for a neat opening graphic and little else.

Omar Vizquel has had a better career than Yuniesky Betancourt, obviously. But as a Mariner, Little O was a terrible hitter, while Yuni is just slightly below average. After this season, I think Yuni will have unquestionably had a better Mariner career than Vizquel. Bring on the next challenger!

Tomorrow: El Gato

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