Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:06 pm
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada retired. Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez are sitting home, waiting for major-league contracts that may never come.
Omar Vizquel is here, in Blue Jays camp, fighting for a job with no guarantees.
He's 44 years old, about to turn 45 next month. He doesn't need this.
Or maybe he does.
"I'm here because I love to play," Vizquel said Thursday morning. "I just love the game."
He's well aware that other players aren't willing to do what he's doing, especially star players. Vizquel was a star, too, an 11-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop (two shy of Ozzie Smith's record of 13).
The irony now is that Vizquel needs to prove himself at shortstop to make the Blue Jays roster. Club officials clearly want him on the team, and see him as a possible mentor to starting shortstop Yunel Escobar, but manager John Farrell said that Vizquel needs to show he still has the arm strength to make the throw from deep in the hole.
"I know what I have to do," he said. "I have to have a solid spring training."
Vizquel understands that he's being asked to prove himself again, but he figures it's worth it for one more shot.
What he doesn't understand is why so many others don't think another year is worth taking a chance.
"You sacrifice a little of your pride," he said. "But I don't know why [others] don't try. If you really feel the energy, why not do it?
"It's weird to see all these guys retire, and I'm still on the field."
He says this year will be it. No, actually he says that this year "probably" will be it.
"I've been saying that the last three years," he admitted.
He already knows what he wants to do next. He turned down a chance to manage in Venezuela over the winter, but he says that managing is in his future.
And not just in Venezuela.
Vizquel would manage there, but eventually he's hoping to manage in the big leagues.
First, though, he's hoping to win a job from a manager he batted against two decades ago. For the record, Vizquel was 4-for-14 against Farrell, with all four hits coming in 1989.
"Yes, I remember," Vizquel said. "Is it funny to play for him now? It's funny to play for anyone. I played for Ozzie [Guillen]. I played for Eric Wedge, and he's younger than me."
Farrell points out that Vizquel helped Elvis Andrus with the Rangers, and Alexei Ramirez with the White Sox. He also points out something that's clear to see, which is that Vizquel is still in great shape.
"He's gained two pounds his entire career," Farrell said. "His body looks just like it did when he was 25."
He's not 25. He's almost 45.
And hoping he's not done yet.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 7:24 pm
NEW YORK -- The day Omar Vizquel made three errors in a game, he vowed it would never happen again.
"It never has," Vizquel said Tuesday. "So far."
So far. It's only been 17 years and one week since that April 16, 1994 game at Jacobs Field, when Vizquel's three errors helped cost the Indians a game against the Royals.
"I remember, right after that, I went 72 games without an error," Vizquel said. "It was a wakeup call for me. And I'm sure it will be for him."
By "him," Vizquel meant Starlin Castro, the Cubs shortstop who committed three errors -- all in one inning -- Monday night.
"Days like that, anybody could have," said Vizquel, now a 44-year-old utility infielder with the White Sox. "Obviously, he got out of focus a little."
Vizquel get out of focus a lot less frequently than most. Six years after his three-error game, he went through the entire 2000 season (playing 156 games) and made just three errors.
"That's crazy," he said. "It's hard to go through a season with that few errors. The hard thing is keeping the focus. And, you know, I wanted to finish with two errors."
It's fashionable these days to pretend that the traditional fielding stats are meaningless, and it's true that fielding percentage isn't the best way to measure a player's defense. But Vizquel, one of the best defensive shortstops ever, said that he always concerned himself with how many errors he made.
"That first error of the year always kills you," he said. "I remember one year, I went through spring training without making one, then went the first two months with no errors.
"You're hoping they don't call one on you [on a close play]."
Posted on: April 22, 2011 8:06 pm
NEW YORK -- Alan Trammell was 35 when Sparky Anderson first moved him off shortstop.
He was 38 when he became a utility man, in what would be his final big-league season.
He understands as well as anyone what happens when shortstops get old. He understands why only one player ever got to 3,000 hits while still playing shortstop, even if he wasn't aware that it was Honus Wagner, 97 years ago.
"What it tells you is yes, it is that demanding a position," said Trammell, now the Diamondbacks bench coach. "You put your heart and soul into it. At shortstop, you've got to be on your p's and q's every pitch.
"At that position, when guys start to lose it, it gets exposed fast."
The question comes up because Derek Jeter has 2,940 hits, turns 37 in June . . . and is still playing shortstop.
Jeter isn't the oldest shortstop in baseball -- Miguel Tejada of the Giants turns 37 in May -- but he is the one guy who will almost certainly do what only Wagner did before him: Reach 3,000 hits while still playing short.
Cal Ripken Jr. was in his third year as a full-time third baseman by the time he got to 3,000 (at age 39). Robin Yount? He was a 36-year-old center fielder.
Omar Vizquel is still playing at 43 (he turns 44 on Sunday), and he was still a full-time shortstop at 40. He still needs 193 hits for 3,000, and in any case, he's no longer a regular shortstop.
Others, like Trammell (2,365) and Ozzie Smith (2,460) fell short of 3,000, although in Smith's case, it wasn't because he retired early. He played until he was 41, and played shortstop right to the end.
Smith, in fact, was the Cardinals shortstop for three of the seven games of the 1996 National League Championship Series. At 41, he's the oldest player ever to start at short in a postseason game.
Worth noting, since both Jeter and Tejada will be 37 by October, is that only five other teams have used a shortstop 37 or older in a postseason game: The 1955-56 Dodgers, with Pee Wee Reese at age 37 and then 38; the 1955 Yankees, with Phil Rizzuto at 38; the 1984 Cubs, with Larry Bowa at 38; and the 2001 Mariners, with Mark McLemore at 37.
"The unfortunate thing for any player," Trammell said, "is that if he doesn't make a play, they'll immediately say it's because he's older."
Posted on: February 8, 2010 6:03 pm
Remember when the White Sox had to un -retire No. 3 so Harold Baines could wear it? They had honored Baines by retiring his number, but made the mistake of not first waiting for him to retire. So then he came back, and naturally he wanted his number back. And so they gave it to him, even though they had retired it.
That was comical.
Now the White Sox are un -retiring Luis Aparicio's No. 11 so Omar Vizquel can wear it.
This isn't comical. This is appropriate.
Aparicio is the greatest shortstop ever from Venezuela, the country's only Hall of Famer. Vizquel is the greatest modern shortstop from Venezuela, and a possible Hall of Famer.
When Vizquel signed with the White Sox, he asked the team about Aparicio's number. Later, Vizquel asked Aparicio about it. Aparicio told Vizquel -- and the White Sox -- that he'd be honored.
That sounds right, because it's an honor to Aparicio to have another great (though aging) shortstop from his country wear his number. And an honor to Vizquel that he's deserving of No. 11.
One side note: The White Sox originally assigned Vizquel No. 17, which isn't retired but is known in Chicago for belonging to Chico Carrasquel, the first Venezuelan shortstop in the big leagues. And while Vizquel has worn No. 13 throughout his big-league career, he can't wear it in Chicago because that's manager Ozzie Guillen's number -- yet another Venezuelan shortstop.
Posted on: June 1, 2008 4:55 pm
Edited on: June 1, 2008 5:03 pm
I came to Cincinnati hoping to see Ken Griffey Jr. make history, and sure enough he did. Yeah, sure did.
With a single and a double (but no home runs) Sunday, Griffey tied Omar Vizquel for 68th place on baseball's all-time hits list, with 2,610. Bet you didn't know that before Sunday, Vizquel had more career hits than Griffey. Vizquel might be ahead again as you read this, because as I write it he's playing for San Francisco against San Diego.
The Vizquel/Griffey stat comes courtesy of Hal McCoy, the Hall of Fame Reds beat man for the Dayton Daily News. But it's more than just a curiosity, because it should remind you exactly how many at-bats Griffey lost to injury. Griffey and Vizquel debuted in the major leagues on the very same day, April 3, 1989, when they were both playing for Seattle. Entering play Sunday, Vizquel had 513 more career at-bats -- nearly one full season more than Griffey.
As Braves manager Bobby Cox said Sunday: "I'd have thought at this time in his career, (Griffey) would be going for 700 (home runs). If he hadn't had the injuries, he might have passed up (Barry) Bonds."
Griffey can actually catch Bonds this week -- in career singles. His one Sunday was his 1,490th. Bonds has 1,495.