Vote trending up, is this Vizquel's HOF year?
Manny, Kent get another chance; Sizemore left off ballot
CLEVELAND -- Could the Indians watch another alum receive an induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021?
Omar Vizquel has watched his Hall of Fame vote count trend in the right direction over the last three years, and after the 2021 ballot was released on Monday afternoon, the only thing left to wonder is whether this could finally be his year.
The Indians watched Jim Thome go through the induction process in 2018 and will be eagerly waiting to see if their beloved former shortstop will be able to have his turn in the spotlight.
Vizquel received 209 of 397 votes cast (52.6 percent) by tenured members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America last go-around in January. In his first year on the ballot in 2018, he earned 37 percent of the vote before jumping to 42.8 percent in 2019. The progression continues to be an optimistic sign for Vizquel, who has as many as seven more years (including 2021) to reach the 75 percent mark that’s required for induction.
If it was only up to his defense, Vizquel could’ve easily been inducted in his first year on the ballot. He won a Gold Glove Award each season from 1993 through 2001 and picked up two more from '05-06 with the Giants, giving him a total of 11 in his career. He sits atop the leaderboard in career fielding percentage as a shortstop with .985 and he turned the most double plays at shortstop in MLB history with 1,734. Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith is second with 1,590 over a 19-year span.
But where some BBWAA members could hesitate is his offensive numbers. In over 2,900 career games in his 24-year career, Vizquel batted .272/.336/.352 with 2,877 hits, 951 RBIs and 404 stolen bases with three All-Star selections. In 11 seasons (1994-2004) with the Tribe, he hit .283 with 1,616 hits, 906 runs scored, 60 homers and 584 RBIs. He had a standout offensive year in 1999, slashing .333/.397/.436 with 42 stolen bases and a career-high 112 runs scored to earn his second consecutive All-Star selection.
Vizquel’s offensive numbers are similar to Smith’s. The defensive wizard who played for 19 years and was a first-ballot inductee hit .262/.337/.328 in his career. However, Smith’s 87 OPS+ just tops Vizquel’s 82 OPS+, which would be tied for the lowest of Hall of Fame shortstops with Luis Aparicio and Rabbit Maranville. Smith also bested Vizquel in stolen bases (by 176) and walks (by 44) and flashed the most leather of all shortstops currently in the Hall of Fame with a 44.2 defensive WAR. If Vizquel is elected in, he’d sit sixth at defensive WAR (29.5) among Hall of Fame shortstops.
While Vizquel waits during the next few months to see if he can receive more votes this year, former Indians right fielder Manny Ramirez and infielder Jeff Kent will also be back on the ballot again in 2021 trying to earn their spots. It was Grady Sizemore’s year to be eligible to be up for voting, but the outfielder was not listed on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot on Monday.
Kent received 27.5 percent of last year’s vote and Ramirez made a 5.4 percent jump in the votes he received from 2019 to bring his total to 28.2 percent, but the outfielder’s past with performance-enhancing drugs will continue to be a hurdle for him to leap. But his outstanding numbers, including a .312 average, .996 OPS, 555 homers, 1,831 RBIs and a .585 slugging percentage over a 19-year career will assure that he continues to receive at least some votes.
Including 2021, Kent has three years left to get inducted, while Ramirez has six. The results will be announced live on MLB Network on Jan. 26.