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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | September 26, 2020

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Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 13

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 13

| On 11, Jul 2020

Did The Tribe Win Last Night is now back on track with a new day in the countdown to Opening Day. Follow along as we count down the days until the Indians kick off play in the pandemic-shortened 2020 schedule on July 24. – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 13 days

In a quick blink of an eye, the Cleveland Indians added another name to their list of men who have spent time on the diamond sporting the generally unlucky digit number 13.

For Hanley Ramirez, the number gave him no luck as he tried to extend his career in his 15th season on a Major League roster. Signed several weeks into spring training by Cleveland, the Indians hoped that the hard-hitting right-handed swinger could provide the lineup with a little extra pop as a designated hitter on a roster that lacked power.

Ramirez made the Opening Day squad at the age of 35. A former Rookie of the Year, a three-time All-Star, and a one-time National League batting champion, Ramirez had been cut loose by the Boston Red Sox the previous year at the tail end of an expensive contract while not putting up the numbers that his salary expected. Cleveland’s Terry Francona slotted him into the fifth spot in the lineup at DH and the results looked encouraging early as in the Indians’ second game of the season, he notched two hits, two walks, and a homer in a 2-1 win. He hit in three straight from April 1 to April 5, but then the bat went cold over the next two weeks as he hit .138 (4-for-29) with a double, five RBI, and six walks. Playing time looked to be decreasing with the team needing roster spots for players returning from the injured list, including Francisco Lindor, and on April 20, Ramirez was designated for assignment. He was given his outright release on April 22, ending his Tribe tenure and possibly his MLB career with 16 games in Cleveland, slashing .184/.298/.327 with two homers and eight RBI in his limited role.

Ramirez played in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, hitting .273 in 13 games for Licey, but was not picked up by any MLB clubs for spring camps this year.

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There may come a point in time in the future that the number 13 finds its way out of circulation and on the list of retired numbers for the Cleveland Indians.

When using wins above replacement (WAR) to compare the players to wear the number 13 throughout baseball history, one thing becomes clear – Omar Vizquel has been not only one of the best to do so for the Cleveland Indians, but he has been one of the best to wear it in Major League Baseball history.

After several years of watching Vizquel suit up as the first base coach in Motown for the Detroit Tigers, he got his managerial career started with two seasons as a minor league skipper for the Chicago White Sox organization (he was given his walking papers in November and has since signed on to manage the Toros de Tijuana club in the Mexican League). Despite his employment with two division rivals since his retirement, Vizquel’s name still comes up frequently in discussion among Cleveland fans, especially when watching Lindor flash the leather from Vizquel’s old shortstop position now or even over the last few winters during his highly debated candidacy for inclusion in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

As was proven over the last few ballots, Vizquel’s spot in Cooperstown is not guaranteed, despite defensively passing the eye test repeatedly over the course of his 24-year playing career.

Getty Images

The Hall has not always been receptive to the work of defensive wizards and that was exactly what Vizquel was in the field over the course of the majority of his career. Old school defensive metrics like errors, assists, and fielding percentage (where Vizquel showed plenty of worth) have been replaced by other means not as well received nor well understood.

Under the old numbers, Vizquel owns the second-best career fielding percentage (.9847) among all shortstops to log at least 500 games at the position. He was surpassed by Detroit’s Jose Iglesias last season.

More recent additions to the defensive measuring stick, like defensive runs saved (DRS), ultimate zone rating (UZR), range factor, and total zone runs, can at times aid Vizquel’s cause. Since 2002, he had a defensive runs above average of 92.2 (that number lacks 13 years of work in his early days and his prime). He ranks fifth overall in that time frame in UZR (50.8) and 19th in UZR/150 (8.6) among all players to take in at least 500 innings or more at short, putting him well above the competition while in in the final years of his career. His career total zone runs saved was 84, putting him 26th all-time on a list filled with HoFers. Six times in 24 years he was a top five player at his position in range factor per game and five times in range factor per nine innings.

Something a little more readily quantifiable, but no less debatable because of the selection process involved, is Vizquel’s collection of fielding-based hardware. He earned his first of eleven Gold Glove Awards in 1993 with Seattle, then was traded in the offseason to Cleveland for Reggie Jefferson and Felix Fermin. He proceeded to win Gold Gloves in each of his first eight seasons in Cleveland from 1994 to 2001, then added two more in the National League in 2005 and 2006 with the San Francisco Giants.

But rarely does defense get you into the Hall of Fame.

Using baseball-reference.com’s similarity scores, Vizquel is in good company historically. Each of the first three comparable players (Luis Aparicio, Rabbit Maranville, and Ozzie Smith) and six of the top eight (adding Luke Appling, Pee Wee Reese, and Nellie Fox to the aforementioned trio) are in the Hall of Fame. The problem there is that all but Smith played in an entirely different era of baseball, and even Smith’s time was more associated with the 1980s (he played 19 years, won 13 Gold Gloves, and was a 15-time All-Star). Smith put up a .262/.337/.328 slash with 2,460 hits for his career, twice leading baseball in sacrifices and leading the National League in games played, plate appearances, and at bats in 1981. While he was serviceable at the plate, Smith’s bat did not hit its way into Cooperstown.

Vizquel, who had a career .252/.309/.303 batting line through five seasons prior to joining the Indians for the 1994 season, made noticeable offensive contributions in the Cleveland lineup during his eleven years in town. He had a couple of thin years, including a .255 mark in 2001 and a .244 average in his injury-shortened 2003 season, but otherwise hovered in the .280s and .290s with the exception of the 1999 season. During that second All-Star season for Vizquel, he had 191 hits in 144 games while hitting .333 with 65 walks and just 50 strikeouts. He also led the Majors with 17 sacrifices that season, a stat that he had previously led the American League in (with 16 in 1997). He led the league again with 20 more in 2004 and led the Majors again with 20 in his first season in San Francisco.

Vizquel Chuck Crow TPD

Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

A long career, started weeks before he would turn 22 during the 1989 season while with the Mariners and ending on the final day of the regular season in 2012 with the Toronto Blue Jays at the age of 45, helped him to accumulate a surprising 2,877 hits over the course of his career. He still ranks 12th all-time in games played, 17th in at bats, and 20th in plate appearances. His production at the plate never quite got the credit it deserved, but he ended a lifetime .272 hitter with nearly as many walks (1,028) as strikeouts (1,087). Ten different times over the course of his career he was one of the hardest players to strike out in a season.

Vizquel’s candidacy was one of the bigger debates on the ballots for the Class of 2018, the first time that he was eligible. He received a healthy 37% share of the vote on a stacked ballot, one that moved former teammate Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, and Trevor Hoffman out of his way in the future.

The next winter, Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, the late Roy Halladay, and Mike Mussina were elected. Vizquel saw his vote total increase to 182, or 42.8% of the 75% that he needs to gain entry to Cooperstown. He nudged up even further in the 2020 voting, finishing sixth among eligible players with 209 votes (52.6% of the 75% needed).

As the years pass and more of the tainted names on the list fall off, Vizquel’s worth may be better appreciated by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Even then, with just a ten-year window now instead of the old 15, Vizquel could still fall short and require assistance from a future Veterans’ Era Committee to earn him enshrinement. Regardless, there remains a shot that “Little O” could find a permanent residence in the halls of Cooperstown, just as he has previously done after being inducted to the Indians Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015.

Other notable 13s in Tribe history (16 in total): Blue Moon Odom (1975), Ernie Camacho (1984-87), Joel Skinner (1989), Lance Parrish (1993), Asdrubal Cabrera (2007-14), Leonys Martin (2018-19)

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below!

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 99 (Daniel Robertson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 90 (Adam Cimber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 88 (Phil Maton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 77 (Jack Armstrong)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 76 (Tom Magrann)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 75 (Mike Walker)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 73 (Ricardo Rincon)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 72 (Jason Giambi)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 71 (Johnny Hodapp)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 70 (James Karinchak, George Kontos)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 69 (Luis Medina)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 68 (Jefry Rodriguez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 67 (Aaron Civale, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 66 (Yasiel Puig, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 65 (Zach Plesac, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 64 (Tom Kramer, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 63 (Josh Smith, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 62 (Nick Wittgren, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 61 (Dan Otero, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 60 (Jhonny Peralta, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 59 (Carlos Carrasco)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 58 (Neil Ramirez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 57 (Shane Bieber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 56 (Cody Anderson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 55 (Roberto Perez)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 54 (Hunter Wood)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 53 (Logan Allen)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 52 (Mike Clevinger)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 51 (numerous)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 50 (James Hoyt, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 49 (Tyler Olson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 48 (Emmanuel Clase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 47 (Trevor Bauer)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 46 (Jon Edwards, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 45 (Adam Plutko)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 44 (Nick Goody, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 43 (Josh Tomlin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 42 (Mike Jackson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 41 (Carlos Santana, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 40 (Bobby Bradley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 39 (Oliver Perez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 38 (Eric Haase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 37 (Cody Allen, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 36 (Tyler Clippard, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 35 (Oscar Mercado, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 34 (A.J. Cole, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 33 (Brad Hand, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 32 (Franmil Reyes, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 31 (Danny Salazar, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 30 (Tyler Naquin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 29 (Andre Thornton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 28 (Corey Kluber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 27 (Kevin Plawecki, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 26 (Max Moroff, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 25 (Jim Thome)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 24 (Carlos Gonzalez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 23 (Michael Brantley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 22 (Jason Kipnis)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 21 (Bob Lemon, Rocky Colavito, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 20 (Frank Robinson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 19 (Bob Feller)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 18 (Mel Harder)
Indians’ 2020 Opening Day Countdown Take Two – 17 (Brad Miller, others)
Indians’ 2020 Opening Day Countdown Take Two – 16 (Mike Sarbaugh, others)
Indians’ 2020 Opening Day Countdown Take Two – 15 (Sandy Alomar, Jr.)
Indians’ 2020 Opening Day Countdown Take Two – 14 (Larry Doby)

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