Tribe Should Consider Some Glove, One More Time
By Craig Gifford
Jim Thome last season, and Kenny Lofton in 2007, each had the chance to play in front of Cleveland fans one final time. Two beloved players who were key components to the Indians’ run of success in the late 1990s and early 2000s who left for other cities, had the chance to receive the adulation from the town that originally loved them one last time.
Last week, Tribe General Manager, Chris Antonetti said the Indians would not offer the same opportunity to former right fielder Manny Ramirez. The former star offensive powerhouse retired at the start of the 2011 season when he failed a steroid test and issued a suspension. Ramirez has announced his plans to come back this year, if anyone will take him. The Indians, who watched Ramirez leave as a free agent to Boston after the 2000 campaign, will not.
This is the right decision. The Indians don’t need a lazy, troubled veteran leading the way for their young core of players. That would not be a good example of how to play the game the right way.
However, one player the Tribe ought to consider bringing back for one last go-round with his former team is Omar Vizquel.
Of those great teams more than a decade ago, Vizquel was one of the most beloved players. Then, a full-time shortstop, Omar won nine Gold Glove Awards and made three All-Star Game appearances in his 11 years with the Wahoo Warriors. He left after the 2004 season as the Indians had younger infielders ready to replace the then 37-year-old many thought would soon retire. Seven seasons later and two more Gold Gloves to his name and Vizquel is still going.
The former Indians short stop is currently a free agent and could be a sentimental, as well as potentially shrewd, pick up. While Vizquel will never again be an everyday player and will be 45 on April 24, he is still very serviceable.
Last year, in 52 games with the Chicago White Sox, Vizquel batted .252. Not good, but decent for a bench player. More importantly, he played all four infield positions and made a total of one error all season. For a team like the Indians that is not loaded with middle infield depth, Vizquel might be a good guy to have around in a pinch. He could spell Asdrubal Cabrera or Jason Kipnis up the middle. He can also be insurance at third base should second year player Lonnie Chisenhall falter or Jack Hannahan regress to his pre-Indians, horrible-hitting ways.
Of course, he couldn’t be expected to carry a team and would likely be a number nine hitter, playing two or three times per week. However, the fans would love to see him once more in a Tribe uniform. He could receive his final ovations, which he deserves and could fill a possible need. If it doesn’t work out, the Indians do still have Cord Phelps down on the farm. I’d rather see Vizquel one last time than a prospect who could probably use one more year of minor league seasoning.
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