Hall of Fame voting season is silly season.
We’ve already covered the case for Jeff Kent‘s induction, which is frankly already overdue. Worthy candidates like Fred McGriff languish, while other worthy candidates such as Dale Murphy fell off the radar entirely. Jack Morris and Alan Trammell needed the Today’s Game committee to earn their spots in Cooperstown. The ballot is crowded, the ten-person maximum absurd–but not as absurd as the self-satisfying notion of first-ballot Hall of Famers–and the end to the logjam isn’t coming anytime soon.
The case for Kent is obscured by the era in which he played. The case for Omar Vizquel, on the other hand, is far more straightforward. You may not realize it because being a shortstop in the American League in the 90s was a popularity contest.
Vizquel was a three-time All-Star, buried behind the likes of Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. That’s not an indictment against Vizquel, and it’s not a shot against any of the aforementioned, but an indictment of Baseball’s marketing machine and the pseudo-democratic process of All-Star voting. Vizquel dominated Gold Glove voting, winning the award 11 times. He was part of six different postseason rosters in 24 seasons and part of those two pennant-winning Cleveland Indians teams in the 90s. For that nearly quarter-century, the switch-hitting Vizquel racked up 2,877 hits, 456 as doubles, more than Barry Larkin or Joe Morgan. With 80 home runs to his name and almost as many triples (77), Vizquel was a throwback to an earlier era of speedy, defensive-minded shortshops.
The closest active player to his 1,734 DPs? J.J. Hardy. His total? 953.
Smith, typically regarded as the gold standard for all-time defensive shortstops, had no problem getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, breezing through on his first go around with nearly 92% of the vote. Vizquel seems to be an afterthought, even though he compares more than favorably to the Wizard: two fewer Gold Gloves than Smith, more double plays, better fielding percentage and statistically better in nearly every offensive category. According to baseball-reference.com’s similarity scores, Smith and Vizquel match five times, and other contemporaries include Hall of Famers Luis Aparicio, Rabbit Maranville, Luke Appling, Pee Wee Reese and should-be HoFer Dave Concepcion.
It’s not his fault he didn’t do somersaults, or that he wasn’t the superstar personality Jeter or Ripken was. This was the best defensive shortstop of his generation, routinely featured on highlight reels and remained relevant well into the latter years of his career. Vizquel did his thing and just kept at it for 24 years. In the process, he amassed numbers that place him amongst the greatest shortstops of all time. With a crowded ballot and fickle voters, Vizquel will suffer the indignity of having to sit around and wait, when this by all rights should be more or less a coronation.
This really shouldn’t be a thing.
Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.