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Cleveland Indians great Omar Vizquel falls short in first year on Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Cleveland Indians great Omar Vizquel fell short of induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel bunts against the Chicago White Sox during a game at Jacobs Field on August 29, 2004.

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 earned 37 percent of the votes, 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.

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, Jim 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 out of winning the 1997 World Series.

Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel fields a ground ball hit by Chicago White Sox second baseman Ray Durham in the first inning at Jacobs Field on July 23, 2001.

The soft-handed shortstop carried a .985 fielding percentage, despite having 11,961 defensive chances. He combined with several second basemen, most notably fellow Indians Hall of Famer Carlos 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 helped turn 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.

Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel makes a catch in the seventh inning of action at the 70th Baseball All-Star Game at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts on July 13, 1999.

After his time with the Indians, Vizquel went on to play four seasons with the Giants (2005-2008), one with the Texas Rangers (2009), two with the Chicago White Sox (2010-2011) and his last, in 2012, with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Vizquel finished his career with 2,877 hits, the fifth-most ever by a shortstop. Only Honus Wagner (3,420), 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.

Vizquel led the league in sacrifice hits four times in his career (1997, 1999 and 2004 with the Indians and 2005 with the Giants).