Jim Caple

FORMER MARINERS ON THE HALL OF FAME BALLOT, ESPECIALLY OMAR

The fantastic Edgar Martinez finally got inducted into the Hall of Fame this year and now there are a couple other former Mariners on this year’s ballot. The most notable and the one who also definitely should be in the Hall is shortstop Omar Vizquel.

Vizquel started his career with Seattle, making his debut with the Mariners in 1989 when Hall-of-Famers Edgar, Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson also began playing with them. How amazing is that to have had three -- and possibly four -- Hall of Famers on the roster, with two in their first seasons? (Johnson pitched four games in 1988 for Montreal and Edgar played 13 and 14 games in 1987 and 1988.)

Omar played five seasons for the Mariners before being traded to Cleveland in 1994 (a deal Seattle should not have made). And he was a superb fielder, one of the absolute best in the baseball history. Which is why he won 11 Gold Glove awards, the first in 1993 with Seattle.

He is well known for many great defensive plays but one of his most memorable with the Mariners was in 1993 when he saved Chris Bosio’s no-hitter by fielding a high-chopper bare-handed and firing the ball quickly to first base for the game-ending out.

While Omar wasn’t a great hitter when he started his career in Seattle, he did bat .294 for the Mariners in 1992 and .333 with Cleveland in 1999. After playing 24 seasons with Seattle, Cleveland, San Francisco, Texas, Chicago and Toronto, he finished with 2,877 hits and 1,445 runs. That’s 400 more hits than Hall-of-Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith had!

This is Vizquel’s third year on the ballot, having received 37 percent of votes in 2018 and 42.8 percent in 2019. So I hope his total keeps rising. He definitely belongs in the Hall – he always gets my vote – though he likely will be wearing a Cleveland cap on his plaque rather than a Seattle one since he played 11 seasons with the Indians.

Another former Mariner on the ballot is outfielder Raul Ibanez, who played 11 seasons with Seattle. And he returned to them twice as a free agent after he left the team in 2001. He hit 305 home runs and drove in 1,207 runs in his 19-season career. His highest batting average was .304 with Seattle in 2004.

There also is reliever J.J. Putz, who played his first six seasons with the Mariners and 12 seasons overall. He had 37 career wins and 189 saves. And another former Mariner is infielder Chone Figgins, who started with the Angels and joined the Mariners in 2010 when then-general manager Jack Zduriencik signed him. Although he stole 341 bases in his career, mostly with the Angels, Figgins didn’t have that great a time with Seattle. He played three seasons here and batting .188 and .181 in his final two.

Pitcher Cliff Lee is also on the ballot, though he played only part of one season with the Mariners in 2010 when he was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA. Overall, he was 143-91 with a 3.52 ERA.

Of all those former Mariners, Vizquel is definitely the one who belongs in the Hall of Fame -- the others on this year’s ballot likely will never make it -- along with Edgar, Griffey and Johnson (unfortunately, Randy wears an Arizona Diamondbacks cap on his plaque). Former broadcaster Dave Niehaus also was awarded the Hall of Fame Ford C. Frick award in 2008 so Cooperstown and the Hall are definitely worth visiting.

And the Mariners’ great Ichiro, who retired early this season, will be on the Hall of Fame ballot in five years when he will definitely get voted in. Hopefully Omar will be in the Hall by then as well. And that there definitely will be a good mention of his time with the Mariners.

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Jim Caple
Jim Caple

Editor

I'm a longtime Hall of Fame voter and I always voted for Edgar Martinez. And former Mariner Omar Vizquel, who I vote for for as well, deserves to be in.