Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Omar's Coming, and That Other Signing

The more rational side of our brain is chastising the goofball side for giving any consideration to the Blue Jays' signing of Omar Vizquel to a minor league deal. (Especially given the news much more significant deal that dropped at almost the same time.) And yet, we just can't help ourselves.

The truth is that we'll be somewhat surprised if Vizquel actually makes the team out of Spring Training. On the other hand, the Jays have a dearth of depth in the middle infield, and we wouldn't mind if they need to keep Vizquel on the bench for the occasional pinch-running/bunting/late defensive replacement role. In other words: The Johnny Mac Role.

Moreover, Vizquel's OPS in over the past two seasons as a bench player is .647, which is better than that of whippersnappers Mike McCoy (.546), Luis Valbuena (.528) and even John McDonald (.637).

Speaking of Johnny Mac: If you tilt your head and look at this the right way, it's like the Jays have let Luke Skywalker go but managed to pick up Obi-Wan Kenobi. Vizquel was John McDonald's mentor when he was scuffling early in his career, barely keeping himself above another assignment to the Buffalo Bisons, and McDonald always spoke well of him whenever they met again on the field.

Funny, but in spite of his 23 years in the Majors and 11 Gold Gloves, we figure that every second question that Vizquel will field when and if he comes to Toronto will be: "So what's Johnny Mac really like?"

What's In a Number?: For the most part over his career, Vizquel sported number 13 in honour of Venezuelan shortstop hero Dave Concepcion. That's with the exception of last season, when manager Ozzie Guillen - another Venezuelan shortstop - had beaten him to the punch. As a result, Vizquel requested and received a special dispensation from Chicago White Sox legend Luis Aparicio - another Venezuelan shortstop - to wear his retired number 11 last season.

It seems unlikely that the Jays would have Brett Lawrie give up his uniform number for the sake of a bench player, especially after having printed up and shipped thousands of "Lawrie 13" jerseys and t-shirts this offseason. We half-joked on Twitter that maybe Vizquel could make a request to wear Robbie Alomar's number 12 next season, just to keep that particular streak of un-retiring numbers alive.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute that Vizquel could pay in these parts would be to wear John McDonald's number 6 next season. We can hardly think of a way that he'd endear himself more to the fans.

How Old Is He?: Not to bag on Vizquel too much for his age, but we'll confess to have completely forgotten about his five year stint in Seattle at the start of his career. But can you blame us? It happened 23 years ago!

A quick bit of perspective: Vizquel's rookie season took place five years before 41 year-old Darren Oliver's rookie campaign. As he headed north for the first time as a big leaguer, the number one song in America was Mike + The Mechanics' "The Living Years", and the number one movie at the Box Office was "Fletch Lives".

In his first game against the Blue Jays on April 26, 1989, he faced Dave Stieb and a lineup as follows: Lloyd Moseby, Rance Mulliniks, Ernie Whitt, George Bell, Fred McGriff, Pat Borders, Nelson Liriano, Rob Ducey, Jesse Barfield and Manuel Lee. Vizquel struck out twice, once at the hands of Stieb and again at the hands of reliever David Wells.

When Vizquel played his first game in Toronto on May 8th of 1989, the Jays' home park was still Exhibition Stadium.

And his first big league homer? July 23rd, 1989 against the Blue Jays, off of Jimmy Key.

That Other Signing: There are few Jays who we root for more than Brandon Morrow. Before last season, we sincerely thought that 2011 would be a revelatory year, and that he'd bust out into a full blown ace by the season's end.

Of course, it didn't play out that way, though we continue to take solace in the nerd stats (of which we possess the most tenuous understanding), which seem to indicate that Morrow's been incredibly unlucky in recent years. With the backing of a better outfield defense, especially with Colby Rasmus in centrefield, we're optimistic that there are better years ahead for Morrow.

Moreover, with the signifcant packages of propects that teams are giving up for Mat Latos or Gio Gonzalez, we're happy to have Morrow in the fold for the next three or four seasons. A quick scan of the ratio numbers posted by the three pitchers might lead a homer like us to believe that the Jays didn't need to empty out their farm system to get an emerging top-of-the-rotation starter.

Morrow - 10.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 2.94 SO/BB

Gonzalez - 8.8 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 2.16 SO/BB

Latos - 8.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 2.98 SO/BB

If the Jays didn't already have Morrow in their system, there's a lot of us who'd be salivating at the prospect of acquiring him right about now.


Nav said...

If you tilt your head and look at this the right way, it's like the Jays have let Luke Skywalker go but managed to pick up Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Well put, homie.

Devin Z. Shaw said...

Couldn't resist the Wire reference?

Tao of Stieb said...

It actually took a second before it clicked in and I remembered it.

Omar comin'!

Of course, if he plays, there will be a multitude of Omar references to follow throughout the year.

Oh, indeed.

Anonymous said...

wow you are a homer Mr Tao. Big surprise, Rogers is paying you.

Chad said...

This post made me feel old.

Anonymous said...

My knees really really hurt.

Then Omar lined off one leg, Chelios low-bridged me and Jamie Moyer Struck me out.

Gordie Howe elbowed me in the tunnel (and I was his winger).

Nolan Ryan wrestled me to the ground in the parking lot, just because of my Robin Ventura replica jersey.

Some guys are just uilt like this.

Shit, do my knees ever hurt.

Anonymous said...

The bench can be Omar and the howlers? ;-)