I thought that it is about time I started to highlight one of my favorite players of all-time, and one of the best shortstops of all-time, Omar Vizquel.
I don't know what it is about light-hitting middle infielders, but they always end up being my favorites. Maybe because I always wanted to be a shortstop. Maybe because I had no pop in my swing, so I identified with them. Maybe because they are the classiest guys out there. (Think Ozzie, Cal, Lou Boudreau, Ernie Banks, etc.)
My favorite before Omar was Duane Kuiper. I think only Giants fans and Indians fans will remember him. In fact, they are similar in that, after they finished playing for the Indians, they both went to the Giants. Kuiper became the radio announcer for the Giants, too. They were both slick-fielding infielders. Omar blossomed from a great-field, OK-hit guy to a HOF-fielder, good-hitter. Kuiper blossomed from a great-field, no-hit guy to a ... well ... a great field, almost-no-hit guy. Sorry, Duane.
I wasn't there for his greatest moment, but my best friend was at the game (along with only 6235 other lucky fans) when Duane hit his only home run in the major leagues on August 29, 1977, in the first inning off of the White Sox' Steve Stone (who happens to have gone to my high school in the Cleveland suburbs, ironically). I just happened to watch a Baseball Bloopers video with my son, and there was a whole segment on that feat. Stone complained that the game started early so he didn't have time to warm up, and he was throwing gophers up there. Kuiper retorted by reminding us that the first batter for the Indians, Paul Dade, struck out, so he must have been throwing something better than lobs! (By the way, two batters later, Andre Thornton hit an inside-the-park home run!)
Back to Omar, though. He really came into his own as an Indian after one of the All-Time-Great-Trades-In-The-History-Of-Baseball, Vizquel for Felix Fermin, Reggie Jefferson and cash. I'd say the Indians got their money's worth, wouldn't you? He went from a low-to-mid .200s hitter with the Mariners to a mid-to-high .200s hitter with the Tribe. He had, arguably, his best year in 1999 when he hit .333, had an .833 OPS, was an All-Star, and even received some votes in the MVP ballotting.
At Baseball Reference, his comparable players are the following:
That is pretty good company!
He has continued to play to this day, even after playing an additional four years for the SF Giants. And playing well. However, it looks like his days in SF may be numbered, although he still wants to play, from what I've read. Maybe the Tribe can bring him back.
All in all, I'd say he is a Hall-of-Famer, especially in my book.