Omar Vizquel may have hit himself into the Hall of Fame last night

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Omar Vizquel headshot.jpgAs I mentioned in the recaps, Omar Vizquel tied Luis Aparicio for the second most hits by a shortstop last night, notching his 2,674th career safety.* Unless
there’s either an unfortunate bus accident or a fortunate Fountain of Youth accident he won’t catch Jeter, who is 108 hits ahead at the moment and will quite obviously be playing this game after Vizquel retires. And yes, I know what you’re thinking, but Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken got a ton of their hits while playing other positions, so they don’t count for this particular record.

First off, congratulations to Vizquel, who is by all accounts a nice guy that many, many people like an awful lot. Especially in Cleveland where, between his brilliance at short and the fact that he angered Jose Mesa all those years ago means that Omar will never have to buy himself a beer when he’s in town, and that counts for something.

Second of all, I can’t help but wonder if this little accomplishment won’t be enough to get Vizquel into the Hall of Fame. I’m not saying he
necessarily deserves it. I’m wary in fact, and think that, despite all the leather and the longevity he’s simply a member of the Hall of Really Good.

But I do think that between him being a glove guy in a hitter’s era and the Luis Aparicio synchronicities — sharing the homeland, the number and now the hits — the voters will look kindly on him one
day. Maybe too kindly. Kind of an anti-steroids protest vote and a nostalgic vote all wrapped up into one.  I think they’ve been talking themselves into it for a couple of years now, and having a milestone like this — even if he ends up being only second place on that particular list — may be tangible enough foothold with which the writers can gain purchase on this particular quest.

Which wouldn’t be the largest injustice on the planet or anything — I’m not sure where Vizquel stands on the numbers, but I’m guessing he wouldn’t be the worst Hall of Famer if that indeed comes to pass. But he’d be far, far from the best too, and with guys like Alan Trammell on the outside looking in, it would irk me in a non-insignificant way.

*As is the case with “Chisox” and “Bosox,” safety is one of those baseball terms you never see anymore. Used to be on the back of baseball cards all the time, but I can’t recall using “safety” for “hit” in ages.  Let’s all try to bring that one back, shall we?

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.