Vizquel drops in HOF voting for a 2nd year

January 26th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- What was once a steady trajectory toward the illustrious 75 percent Hall of Fame threshold for former Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel has become a drastic plummet.

For the second consecutive year, Vizquel fell in the Hall of Fame voting, receiving just 23.9 percent of the vote (94 of 394 votes cast) from tenured members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, as announced Tuesday on MLB Network.

In his first year on the ballot in 2018, Vizquel received 37 percent of the vote before jumping to 42.8 percent in ’19 and 52.6 percent in ’20. That climb upwards was halted during last year’s vote when off-the-field news from his past was released to the public just a month before voters turned in their ballots.

In 2020, The Athletic reported that Vizquel’s ex-wife, Blanca, had accused him of domestic abuse. Vizquel denied the allegations, although he was taken into police custody in 2016 after an incident at the couple’s home in Sammamish, Wash., according to that report. No charges were filed.

That same report stated that MLB had launched an investigation of Vizquel for a clubhouse incident that arose when he was managing the Double-A Birmingham Barons, an affiliate of the White Sox, in 2019. While a Hall of Fame vote is largely cast based on a player’s baseball abilities and their contributions to a team, writers are also instructed to consider a player’s integrity, sportsmanship and character.

A year later, Vizquel has reached his lowest vote percentage since his name was placed on the ballot. He has five years left on the ballot to try to reach the 75 percent mark.

After last year marked the first time since 2013 and the ninth time since voting began in 1936 that no player was elected into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, this year, Boston’s David Ortiz has taken the spotlight as this year’s only inductee, receiving 77.9 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot.

As Vizquel suffered a setback in his vote totals, another former Cleveland player, Manny Ramirez -- who received 28.2 percent of the vote in 2021 -- saw a miniscule increase to 28.9 percent of the vote this year. He still has four years remaining on the ballot to reach the 75 percent mark. But as seen Tuesday night with both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens failing to get elected into the Hall of Fame in their final years on the ballot, even with their jam-packed résumés, Ramirez's history with performance-enhancing drugs makes the path ahead of him difficult. (The outfielder tested positive twice and each time was suspended per MLB rules.)

Vizquel originally had the best chance of the Cleveland players currently on the ballot of getting elected. And 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 1993-2001 and picked up two more from '05-06 with the Giants, giving him a total of 11 career Gold Gloves. 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.

The hesitation to vote for Vizquel -- based solely on on-field production -- has come from his offensive numbers. In 2,968 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 Cleveland, 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.

He’ll have to wait to see if he can overcome these on-field and off-field hurdles in the next five years.