CLEVELAND -- Omar Vizquel turned defense into a blend of art and acrobatics. He was a franchise icon for the Indians and one of the great shortstops not only of his era, but in baseball history.That might one day lead to Vizquel becoming a Hall of Famer, but it may
CLEVELAND -- Omar Vizquel turned defense into a blend of art and acrobatics. He was a franchise icon for the Indians and one of the great shortstops not only of his era, but in baseball history.
That might one day lead to Vizquel becoming a Hall of Famer, but it may take time and more convincing among the voting body of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. On Wednesday, in his first year eligible for enshrinement, Vizquel fell well short of the 75 percent of the vote required for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
• Tribe legend Thome a first-ballot Hall of Famer
Jim Thome, one of Vizquel's teammates on the powerhouse Indians teams of the 1990s, was elected to the Class of 2018, along with Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman. They will be honored during an induction ceremony on July 29 in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with former Tigers greats Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, who were voted into the Hall by the Modern Baseball Era Committee.
Former Mariners DH Edgar Martinez, who fell just short of election on Wednesday, played with Vizquel from 1989-93 and believes the defensive wizard deserves his own plaque in Cooperstown some day.
"He got 2,800 hits and 11 Gold Gloves," Martinez said. "To me, it doesn't get better than that. He was a great player that played the game for a long time. He belongs. He doesn't have the big numbers like a lot of home runs or RBIs, but defense is important, too, and he was consistent on both sides of the field."
While it was an historic day for Thome, who was also on the ballot for the first time, the other players with Cleveland ties on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot did not receive enough votes.
• Affable slugger Thome heading to Cooperstown | Complete results
Vizquel led that group with 156 votes (37 percent), followed by Manny Ramirez (93 votes, 22 percent) and Jeff Kent (61 votes, 14.5 percent). That trio will return to the ballot next year, but Johnny Damon (1.9 percent), Kerry Wood (0.5 percent) and Kevin Millwood (no votes) were not named on at least 5 percent of the ballots cast and are no longer eligible.
Ramirez (1993-2000 with the Indians) saw his percentage drop slightly from 23.8 percent last year, which was his first time on the ballot. Known as one of the greatest right-handed hitters in history, Ramirez belted 236 of his 555 career home runs with Cleveland, while owning the all-time club records for slugging percentage (.592) and OPS (.998). Ramirez was a 12-time All-Star and ended with a .312 average and .996 OPS in 19 seasons, but the end of his career was marred by multiple positive tests for performance-enhancing substances.
Vizquel spent the bulk of his 24-season Major League career with the Indians, suiting up for Cleveland from 1994-2004 and winning nine of his 11 Gold Glove Awards with the club. Overall, Vizquel amassed 2,877 hits between stints with the Mariners, Indians, Giants, White Sox, Rangers and Blue Jays, and he finished as baseball's all-time leader in double plays turned (1,734), games played (2,709), and fielding percentage (.985) among shortstops.
Vizquel became one of the faces of the '90s Indians teams that won six division crowns and a pair of American League pennants.
"His defense was remarkable," said Sandy Alomar Jr., Vizquel's teamate with the Indians from 1994-2000. "And a lot of times, the one thing that I liked about our guys is that they coached themselves on the field. They didn't need a lot of help from the coaching staff. Omar, he was kind of like the human GPS. He knew where to play. He knew the hitter. On the go, he'd make decisions out there. Now you position players because of all this data that we have. Omar already knew that.
"He was ahead of the game when it came to defense. A lot of plays, he made it easier, because he was positioning himself ahead of time."
While Vizquel is heralded for his defense, his overall offensive showing is what may hold him back from enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. While he compiled nearly 3,000 hits over his two-plus decades in the game, Vizquel had an 82 OPS+ for his career. That indicates that he was 18 percent below average as a hitter in his time in the Majors.
"You can't penalize him for power numbers. He wasn't that type of player," Alomar said. "He wasn't born with the strength to hit home runs. He was more of a spark plug. He became a hitter when he came over to us. He wasn't as good until he was sandwiched in there with [Carlos] Baerga and [Kenny] Lofton and became the player he became."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.