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Inspired by a lively argument I’ve been participating in lately concerning Omar Vizquel’s Hall of Fame candidacy, I’ve decided it’s time to do a Shannon Stewart list on him. The Shannon Stewart List simply means looking at him in context of all major league regulars at his position (shortstops in Vizquel’s case,) year by year, and seeing how he ranks. Maybe it’ll help me warm up to the guy. I’m trying. Honest.

I’ll list the top 10 shortstops in the major leagues for each season in which Vizquel was a regular, and then I’ll add any comments. These rankings are by VORP, and I’ll put notations where there are big gaps, that is, clear divisions between tiers of players. Note that VORP measures a player’s offensive contributions, so I’ll make notes where Vizquel should rank higher on grounds of his defense.

By the way, as concerning his defense, I’m going with the pretty much consensus opinion of defensive statistics, which is that Vizquel was a good-to-very-good, never spectacularly great, shortstop in his prime, and has been merely average the last few years. Remember: Gold Gloves are the most ridiculous award in sports. Don’t get caught imagining that an award that was once given to a guy who played DH most of the year matters.

OK, here we go…

Vizquel’s first year as a regular was 1991:
1. Cal Ripken
(GIGANTIC gap — more on this in a second)
2. Barry Larkin
3. Ozzie Smith
4. Jay Bell
(Sizable gap here. Actually, there’s a big gap between Larkin and Ozzie, but in my opinion Ozzie’s glove, still magnificent in 1991, closes the gap quite a bit.)
5. Bill Spiers
6. Tony Fernandez
7. Shawon Dunston
8. Jeff Blauser
9. Alan Trammell
10. Luis Rivera

Vizquel was terrible in 1991, below replacement level, ranking 30th. Cal Ripken’s 1991 was extremely valuable. Add in his defense, and Baseball Prospectus claims it was the second most valuable season in baseball history. That’s going overboard, but it was one of the most valuable seasons of the era.

1992
1. Barry Larkin
(big gap)
2. Ozzie Smith
3. Pat Listach
4. Travis Fryman
5. Jay Bell
6. Jeff Blauser
7. Cal Ripken
8. Spike Owen
9. Tony Fernandez
10. Randy Velarde
11. Omar Vizquel
Yes, Randy Velarde was once a shortstop. After Larkin, it’s a pretty gradual downward movement in value, no real big gaps. Velarde was definitely less valuable than Listach, but you can’t argue especially persusasively that he was less valuable than Ripken.

1993
1. Jeff Blauser
2. Travis Fryman
3. Jay Bell
(big gap here, separating MVP candidates from mere all-stars)
4. Barry Larkin
5. Alan Trammell
(big gap, separating all-stars from guys that had a good year)
6. Andujar Cedeno
7. Cal Ripken
8. John Valentin
9. Tony Fernandez
10. Kevin Stocker

Yes, that’s right: Jeff Blauser was the best shortstop in baseball in 1993. Amaze your friends! Seriously, the top 3 are close in VORP, so taking defense into consideration — Blauser and Fryman were both ugly with the glove — the real answer to the question is that Jay Bell was the best in 1993. Our friend Omar horribly, horribly sucked in 1993 (.298 slugging!), racking up tons of negative value. He was by far the worst everday shortstop in baseball, being significantly worse than fellow glove merchant Felix Fermin (fun fact: Those crazy Indians once traded Jay Bell straight-up for Felix Fermin.)

1994
1. Wil Cordero
2. Cal Ripken
3. John Valentin
4. Barry Larkin
5. Jay Bell
(Big gap here; nobody after Jay Bell even had an especially good year in 1994)
6. Andujar Cedeno
7. Randy Velarde
8. Kevin Stocker
9. Felix Fermin
10. Jose Valentin 

This is the year we all fondly remember as “Fermin’s Revenge.” This was also our buddy Omar’s first year in Cleveland, and he celebrated it by continuing to suck, placing in the bottom 1/4 of all shortstops. He returned to his 1991 level of suck, instead of his ghastly 1993 level (he was right around replacement level with the bat, and ticks up a few notches because of his glove.)

1995
1. John Valentin
2. Barry Larkin
(ENORMOUS gap here. Larkin was NL MVP, and Valentin perhaps should have been AL MVP. I had forgotten just how much Valentin could rake, back before his body was held together with duct tape.)
3. Shawon Dunston
4. Gary DiSarcina (Gary DiSarcina!?)
5. Jose Offerman
6. Wil Cordero
7. Cal Ripken
8. Jay Bell
9. Kurt Abbott
10. Pat Meares
11. Omar Vizquel

Once again, after Larkin it’s a nice, gradual decline in value over the list, no big gaps but Kurt Abbott was definitely less valuable than Shawon Dunston. I have no idea what happened in 1995. The top of this list looks bizarre. 1995 is also remembered as “The Last Year the Pirates had an actual major league baseball player until the 21st century.” Alas, poor Jay, we knew him well.

1996
1. Alex Rodriguez
(GIGANTIC gap, separating a Honus Wagner season from a merely MVP-type season)
2. Barry Larkin
(another huge gap, separating the space aliens from the guys who were merely all-stars)
3. Derek Jeter
4. Cal Ripken
5. Omar Vizquel
6. Jose Valentin
7. John Valentin
8. Mark Grudzielanek
(gap here)
9. Edgar Renteria
10. Kevin Elster

This was a huge year for shortstops. Rodriguez was mind-blowing, and Larkin was just as good as in his MVP year the year before. Jeter, Ripken and Vizquel were similar in value. Jeter was bad with the glove, though Ripken was still good, so really it should be 3. Vizquel 4. Ripken 5. Jeter, and there’s a small gap between them and the Amazing Flying Valentins. This was Ripken’s last good year, and his last year as a shortstop.

1997
1. Nomar Garciaparra
(gap here)
2. Jeff Blauser
3. Alex Rodriguez
(gap here)
4. Jay Bell
(gap here)
5. Derek Jeter
(big gap here)
6. Barry Larkin
(gap here)
7. Omar Vizquel
8. Royce Clayton
9. Mark Grudzielanek
10. Pat Meares

Strange year in how spread-out the talent at the top was, and in that whatever space alien possessed Jeff Blauser in 1993 returned after a three-year absence. Seventh is definitely where Vizquel belongs, with Larkin (a good glove) a good way ahead of him and Clayton a good way behind him.

1998
1. Alex Rodriguez
(gap)
2. Nomar Garciaparra
(gap)
3. Derek Jeter
4. Barry Larkin
(GIGANTIC gap. The top 4 were MVP candidates; from 5 on down were just guys that had good years.
5. Jay Bell
6. Omar Vizquel
(gap)
7. Mike Caruso
(gap)
8. Chris Gomez
9. Mike Bordick
10. Walt Weiss
The Coronation of the Big Three. Jay Bell ranked 5th, but this was the year he kind of fell off, from consistent all-star to merely good shortstop. He and Vizquel were essentially identical this year, Bell holding a small advantage with the bat and Vizquel a small advantage with the glove. Who the hell is Mike Caruso?

1999
1. Derek Jeter
(big gap)
2. Nomar Garciaparra
(Humongous gap)
3. Alex Rodriguez
4. Omar Vizquel
(gap)
5. Barry Larkin
(gap)
6. Mark Grudzielanek
7. Tony Batista
8. Rich Aurilia
9. Edgar Renteria
10. Mike Bordick

Jeter had an incredible year and should have been MVP, subpar glove and all. Garciaparra was good enough to be MVP most years (.418/.603 with a plus glove.) Vizquel belongs fourth behind Rodriguez, but he wasn’t that far behind him; this was one of his best years, a truly all-star caliber year, largely because he went bananas stealing bases (42/51).

2000
1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Nomar Garciaparra
(huge gap)
3. Derek Jeter
(huge gap)
4. Miguel Tejada
5. Jose Valentin
(gap)
6. Barry Larkin
7. Mike Bordick
8. Rafael Furcal
9. Omar Vizquel
10. Rich Aurilia 
Just another day at the office in Alex Rodriguez’ ongoing Honus Wagner impersonation. I forgot how devastating Nomar was before his injury in 2001. Vizquel had a pretty ho-hum decent year. His defense bumps him up to seventh, ahead of Bordick and Furcal, but no further.

2001
1. Alex Rodriguez
(huge gap)
2. Rich Aurilia
(gap)
3. Derek Jeter
(Gigantic gap)
4. Miguel Tejada
5. Cristian Guzman
6. Jimmy Rollins
(big gap)
7. Orlando Cabrera
8. Ricky Gutierrez
9. David Eckstein
10. Juan Uribe

I think maybe this Alex Rodriguez guy is a Hall of Famer. Another mind-boggling year for him. Cap’n Derek went 27-30 stealing bases, which is pretty good… nobody after Jeter had an especially great year. Oh, you’re probably wondering where Super Omar is. He decided to party like it’s 1994 this year. He wasn’t the worst shortstop in baseball — nobody was touching Alex Cora for that prize in 2000 — but he was bad, replacement-level, providing good defense but a train-wreck .316/.334 on offense.

2002
1. Alex Rodriguez
(big gap)
2. Nomar Garciaparra
3. Miguel Tejada
4. Derek Jeter
(big gap)
5. Edgar Renteria
6. Jose Hernandez
(big gap)
7. David Eckstein
8. Omar Vizquel
9. Alex Cora
10. Chris Woodward
It was Alex Rodriguez’ idea of an off year, but he still ranked #1 by a hefty margin. Everyone’s pretty well spaced here, so no one’s going to move up or down for defense’s sake, including Omar. It was merely a good year for him.

2003
1. Alex Rodriguez
(huge gap)
2. Edgar Renteria
(gap)
3. Nomar Garciaparra
(gap)
4. Miguel Tejada
5. Rafael Furcal
6. Derek Jeter
7. Orlando Cabrera
(big gap)
8. Alex Cintron
9. Angel Berroa
(big gap)
10. Jose Valentin

Our buddy Omar reverted to 1994 again, being a zero with the bat (.316/.336? I’ll take two, thanks!) and being in the bottom third of major-league shortstops, right around replacement level.

2004
1. Miguel Tejada
2. Carlos Guillen
(big gap)
3. Derek Jeter
4. Michael Young
(gap)
5. Jimmy Rollins
6. Jack Wilson
(big gap)
7. Khalil Greene
8. Rafael Furcal
9. Omar Vizquel
10. Julio Lugo

Vizquel’s close enough to Furcal and Greene that we can bump him to 7th, if we want to be generous to him. Alex Rodriguez finally fell off his #1 perch, ending his 8 year reign of terror there. It’s been three years now and I’ve yet to hear a rational explanation for why you would take a guy who was the undisputed #1 shortstop in baseball for eight consecutive years and move him to third base. Hell, I’m being too conservative: They took Honus freakin’ Wagner and moved him to third base.

2005
1. Michael Young
(gap)
2. Miguel Tejada
3. Derek Jeter
(gap)
4. Jhonny Peralta
(gap)
5. Felipe Lopez
6. Julio Lugo
7. Jimmy Rollins
8. Rafael Furcal
(gap)
9. Bill Hall
10. David Eckstein

Super Omar moved to the National League and hit a somewhat underwhelming .330/.350, making him about an average major league shortstop, at least if you make the somewhat questionable decision to consider him a good defensive shortstop.

2006
1. Derek Jeter
(big gap)
2. Carlos Guillen
3. Miguel Tejada
(gap)
4. Jose Reyes
5. Hanley Ramirez
(big gap)
6. Rafael Furcal
7. Michael Young
8. Jimmy Rollins
9. Bill Hall
(gap)
10. Edgar Renteria

Vizquel ranked 13th, behind Julio Lugo and Orlando Cabrera. I don’t think you can argue his glove was significantly better than either of those guys’ glove last year.

SUMMARY 
Vizquel’s career breaks down as follows:

1991-1994: Among the least valuable regular shortstops in the major leagues, even with the plus-plus glove. Terrible bat, although his 1992 showed promise.

1995-2000: The golden years. Vizquel was generally about the 5th-7th best shortstop in baseball during this period, rising as high as third (1996), although he wasn’t gangbusters in 1995 or 2000.

2001-2004: Decline years. Alternated years among baseball’s worst shortstops (2001 and 2003) with years in the top ten (2002 and 2004.)

2005-present: Hanging around. No longer a significantly good player, but still worth playing every day on some teams.

The highest rank among shortstops Vizquel ever achieved was third, in 1996.
He has had five different seasons (1991, 1993, 1994, 2001, 2003) among the bottom one-fourth of all regular shortstops, and they weren’t seasons at the very beginning or very end of his career, either (Vizquel had been in the majors semi-regularly since 1989.)

Vizquel was a top-five major league shortstop three times (1996, 1998, 1999). He was a top ten major-league shortstop — that is, in the top 1/3 of shortstops — nine times (1992, 1995-2000, 2002, 2004.) Of these, two times (1992 and 1995) he was merely at the bottom of the top ten.

CONCLUSIONS
Well, this proves beyond any doubt for me that this was not a Hall of Fame player. He’ll wind up with around 2800 hits, but his batting average was almost always his entire offense, and I’m just not going to advocate someone for the Hall of Fame on the basis of showing up every day, playing good defense and hitting some singles.

Vizquel was only a top-five shortstop three times in his career, and was never a top-ten player in any particular season, not even once. I just don’t think somebody like that belongs in the Hall of Fame unless his name is Pete Rose and he racked up over 4,000 hits.

Vizquel’s career stat line right now is very similar to Luis Aparicio’s, except that Aparicio did it in a much lesser offensive context, and Aparicio had significantly more speed to go with his plus defense. And Aparicio is one of the weaker shortstops in the Hall of Fame, at least once you disqualify the obvious mistakes like Travis Jackson and Dave Bancroft.

Anyhow, it’s time to put to rest the idea that Vizquel was a Hall of Famer. Even in the context of his own time he doesn’t stand out except for his longevity, and shortstop is already a very well-represented position in the Hall of Fame, even not considering that Rodriguez, Jeter, and probably Tejada have plaques waiting.

One thing that jumped out at me in this study is that Jay Bell is probably the second-best shortstop who isn’t in the Hall of Fame, after Alan Trammell. Bell was a legitimately outstanding player for quite some time; this went unnoticed because Bell did everything well instead of one particular thing spectacularly, and because Jim Leyland used him to experiment with breaking records for sacrifice bunts, costing Barry Bonds God knows how many RBI in the process. I could not possibly justify putting Vizquel in the Hall of Fame ahead of Jay Bell, much less ahead of Barry Larkin.

The best shortstops who are now retired and are not in the Hall of Fame: 
1. Barry Larkin
2. Alan Trammell
3. Jay Bell

The Hall’s done a pretty good job of identifying the best shortstops through history, with no really bad oversights until Trammell, at least once George Davis finally went in 50 years overdue.