Monday, February 8, 2010

Omar Vizquel is not Luis Aparicio... or Ozzie Smith

The White Sox are unretiring Luis Aparicio's jersey (#11) and giving it to Omar Vizquel.  Both of them are shortstops.  Both are Venezuelan.  It's a terrific gesture.

But there's one thing that Aparicio is that Vizquel is not.

A Hall of Famer.

Read this article by Rich Lederer for a better understanding of why Vizquel doesn't belong in Cooperstown.  (In short, his hitting was poor and his fielding is overrated.  There are many more deserving shortstops.)

Vizquel is going to get major support, I know.  After all, he has 11 Gold Gloves.  (As Rob Neyer once wrote, "He even deserved some of them.")  It will be argued, too, that he was the Ozzie Smith of the National League, except with better stats in every category except stolen bases and walks.

Bill James had it dead-on when he first opined that specialists are overrated and guys who do most everything well are underrated.  Fans and media extol the virtues of a guy who can throw 99 mph without any other quality pitches a lot more than a guy with an 89 mph fastball and three other pitches in his repertoire.  A player who regularly cranks out home runs is given the spotlight even if he can't do anything else; a more well-round batter who hits for both a nice power and average is ignored.

This is why Barry Larkin is not in the Hall of Fame yet despite being in everybody's top ten list for all-time shortstops.  He had so many skills, you couldn't focus on just one and wax poetic about it.  Same with Alan Trammell.

Omar Vizquel, being a much more limited player, has it easier.  When his name is on the ballot, the stories of his magnificent fielding prowess will fill the air.  It's okay to listen, but not if you confuse legend with gospel.

(Hey, anyone want to put Mark Belanger in the Hall of Fame?)

1 comment:

RANDY RANGEL said...

Omar vizquel had a long and decent career in the big leagues, that's clearly understood, but to think about his possible inductioning into the hall of fame of baseball in Cooperstown is frantically speaking being out of touch with reality.