The ability of Omar Vizquel to work magic with his glove has been a familiar sight since he first broke into the Majors with the Seattle Mariners in 1989. Vizquel routinely made unbelievable plays that left Mariners announcer Dave Niehaus speechless, an impressive achievement by itself. The beauty of watching him field and throw the ball as if it were a part of his magic show has not diminished as Vizquel attempts to make the Toronto Blue Jays roster during Spring Training. What is most impressive is his ability to make these plays that most Major League infielders who are half his age couldn’t dream of making. As he approaches his 45th birthday, the attention turns to whether he will first and foremost make the Blue Jays roster as a utility infielder. If he is able to do this, then the attention might turn to his hitting.
Never the duel threat at the plate as he was in the field like his counterpart in Cleveland, Roberto Alomar, Vizquel has quietly worked his way to within striking distance of 3,000 hits. Forget for a moment the 11 Gold Gloves, 9 of them in a row. Forget that he has the highest fielding percentage for any shortstop who has played at least 1,000 games, 0.9846. Forget all the spectacular double plays that helped him turn the most double plays by a shortstop. Focus on his hitting ability for a moment. Offensive prowess and Omar Vizquel are rarely in the same paragraph much less the same sentence, but through 23 years of playing immaculate defense Vizquel now only needs 159 hits to reach 3,000. He would be the 29th player to join the 3,000 hit club. The magical plateau of 3,000 hits has guaranteed the enshrinement of 24 of those players in Cooperstown. One is still active, Derek Jeter. One has not become eligible for the Hall of Fame yet, Craig Biggio. Two are unlikely to even reach Cooperstown, Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro, but it’s not because they don’t have the numbers.
Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Fame player. His defense has placed him among the games’ greats. His hitting should push him over the top and secure his place in an even more exclusive club as a First Ballot Hall of Famer.