All-Time Indians: Omar Vizquel

 

Name: Omar Enrique Gonzalez Vizquel   Position: Hitter        
Nick Name: Little O             Number: 13          
Tribe Time: 1994-2004           DOB: 04/24/1967        
Accolades: 8 Gold Gloves (1994-2001), 3 Time All-Star (1998-1999,2001), Top 16 MVP 1999
Stats G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS SB% OBP SLG AVG OPS ISOP
Best Season (1999) 144 574 112 191 36 4 5 66 250 65 50 42 9 82% .397 .436 .333 .833 .103
Career 1478 5708 906 1616 288 39 60 584 2162 612 586 279 95 75% .352 .379 .283 .731 .096
Post Season Career 57 228 28 57 7 4 0 20 72 25 36 23 3 88% .327 .316 .250 .643 .066

Omar was always one of the most exciting defensive players on the baseball field, being compared to Ozzie Smith as one of the greatest defensive short stops of all time. Not only was Omar able to make the plays expected of any short stop (he ranked second or higher in the AL in fielding percent each year from 1997 through 2002), but he made some truly amazing plays as well, showing the greatest range that any Indians fan has ever seen.

In a combination almost never seen, Omar was not just the best defensively, but was also one of the greatest offensive short stops in Indians history. Compared to all Indians hitters, he ranks in the top five in at bats and steals while ranking in the top ten in runs, hits, doubles, total bases and walks. His steals were one of his most impressive stats, since he was always overshadowed by Kenny Lofton in that department. From 1995 through 2000 Vizquel averaged more than 30 steals a year. Since then no player has come close to matching that feat, with only Grady Sizemore averaging 30 or more steals for more than a single season.

Arguably the greatest time in Vizquel's career started in 1999, when the Indians signed their first major free agent in years in Roberto Alomar. For five years, the Indians had bounced from second baseman to second baseman while Vizquel played the rock of the defense at short. In order to complement Vizquel, who had won six straight Gold Gloves (and would win the next three as well), the Indians brought in Alomar, who had won seven of the last eight AL Gold Gloves at second. Together, they were probably not just the greatest double play combination in Indians history, but the greatest in baseball history. They went on to win both Gold Gloves at second and short every year they were together. 

In addition to his prowess during the regular season, Vizquel was one of the greatest post season batters in Indians history.  During his six post seasons with the Indians he played in more playoff games than any other player in team history. He also leads the team in career hits, triples and steals, ranking in the top five in runs scored, doubles, RBI and walks. The 1997 ALDS against the New York Yankees was his best single series, posting a .500 batting average over the five games, going 9 for 18. After going 1 for 25 in the following ALCS, Omar came back for the World Series, stealing five bases and making an amazing game saving diving catch during game six against the Marlins.

Omar originally came to the Indians in 1993 in what turned out to be a very lopsided trade with the Mariners for Reggie Jefferson and Felix Fermin. Vizquel was the final major piece to what turned out to be one of the greatest Indians teams of all time, breaking in Jacob's Field in 1994 and continuing through their five consecutive Central Division championships. In 2004 a combination of a monetary disagreement and a new power hitting shortstop named Jhonny Peralta (who started at short during most of 2003 with Vizquel out with injury) lead Omar to his first year of free agency.

He spent the next four seasons with San Francisco as the starting short stop and played fairly, but was not as good as Peralta was for the Indians, showing that they made the right choice. The Giants made a similar choice in 2008 which forced Omar to leave town again, this time moving on to Texas as a reserve infielder. He finished his career playing for Chicago and Toronto before calling it quits after 2012. After playing his first 16 seasons with just two teams, he split his last eight in four different cities. Even 45 years old in his final season, Omar still impressed defensively, but he was just a shadow of his former self, which we still remember as the Gold Glover who manned short stop for Cleveland.

After retiring, Vizquel worked as an infield instructor with several teams before settling with the Detroit Tigers as their first base coach, where he remains today. In Summer of 2013, he will be inducted to the Indians Hall of Fame. He also is one of the best chances for the Indians next Hall of Famer in Cooperstown as Lofton has already been left out and many of the other players, like Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, are shadowed by the "steroid era" despite absolutely no evidence that either player did steroids while in Cleveland. Omar should have none of these problems and if ever a player deserved to be in the Hall for his defensive talents, it's little O.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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