CLEVELAND -- Former Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel failed to get enough votes for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.
Vizquel was named on 37 percent of the ballots, falling short of the required 75 percent for induction, but his former teammate, infielder/designated hitter Jim Thome, was selected in his first year on the ballot, and believes the Gold Glove shortstop belongs in Cooperstown.
“I love Omar,” Thome said after the filming of a one-hour special celebrating his induction into the Hall of Fame. “I think we all know Omar’s a hall of famer.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Indians great Omar Vizquel falls short of Baseball Hall of Fame election
The Indians acquired Vizquel in a trade with the Seattle Mariners after the 1993 season in exchange for first baseman Reggie Jefferson, shortstop Felix Fermin and cash, and the Venezuela native went on to spend the next 11 years making breathtaking barehanded plays in the middle of the Tribe’s infield.
Vizquel won eight straight Gold Gloves at shortstop and appeared in three All-Star games (1998, 1999, 2002) during his time with the Indians.
Although Vizquel was known more for his defensive wizardry than batting prowess during his time in Cleveland, the .283 hitter had a knack for clutch hits and got on base better than 35 percent of the time. Also, he proved willing and able of stretching anything into extra bases, as he swiped 279 of his 404 career stolen bases for an Indians team that featured power hitters like Albert Belle, Thome and Manny Ramirez, as well as solid contact hitters in Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga.
Vizquel was the No. 2 hitter in the batting order for a franchise that won the American League Central Division six times, made seven trips to the postseason, twice won the AL Pennant, and came within an inning of winning the 1997 World Series.
The soft-handed shortstop carried a .985 fielding percentage, despite having 11,961 defensive chances. He combined with several second basemen, most notably a fellow Indians Hall of Famer in Baerga and National Baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, to convert 944 double plays over his 11 years in Cleveland, an average 85.8 per season.
Combined with Alomar, Vizquel turned 275 double plays for the Indians from 1999-2001, and his 1,734 career double plays turned rank first all-time. They are 144 more than Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, who is second all-time for double plays turned by a shortstop (1,590).
Vizquel won one Gold Glove Award with the Mariners and two more with the San Francisco Giants for a career total of 11.
Vizquel finished his career with 2,877 hits, the fifth-most ever by a shortstop. Only Honus Wagner (3,420), former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter (3,383), Cal Ripken Jr. (3,184) of the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee’s Robin Yount (3,142) had more hits as a shortstop, and all but Jeter, who is yet to be eligible, are enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
A lifetime .272 hitter, Vizquel had 456 doubles, 77 triples and 80 home runs along with 951 runs batted in, 1,445 runs scored, 1,028 walks against 1,087 strikeouts, 404 stolen bases, 256 sacrifice hits and 94 sacrifice flies.
“He’s a guy who transformed himself from a great defensive player and made himself into an incredible offensive player that was probably one of the smartest guys to ever play the game, along with a lot of other guys we had,” Thome said.
“Robbie Alomar was right there. I think Kenny Lofton was right there. Omar, to be, is hands-down a hall of famer in my book.”