By IAN WILSON
Wait and see.
That will be the most likely outcome for a pair of former Calgary Cannons who are hoping to gain acceptance into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Omar Vizquel and Alex Rodriguez – who rose to prominence as elite shortstops in Major League Baseball (MLB) – are among the 28 players being considered by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).
To get in, they will need to be chosen on 75% of the ballots. To stick around for another round of voting next year, the infielders need to be picked by just 5% of the voters.
Reading the tea leaves from the ballots that have been revealed publicly, both men are expected to finish somewhere between those two percentage figures.
Let’s take a closer look at the induction possibilities for each, as well as a look back at their time in Calgary.
This is A-Rod’s second year on the ballot. Last year, he received just over 34% of the vote, well shy of the 75% threshold, but more than enough to warrant further contemplation.
Rodriguez has the stats to make him a lock for Cooperstown, but as was the case with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the stain of steroid use plagues his chances.
During his 22 years with the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, Rodriguez batted .295, swatted 696 homers, stole 329 bases and collected 2,086 runs batted in (RBI).
Rodriguez also picked up a trio of Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, a World Series title in 2009, 14 All-Star nods, 10 Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Glove Awards.
He won’t make it this year, but the complexities of his case will be pondered again by voters very soon.
As for his time with the Calgary Cannons, Rodriguez played 32 games for the Pacific Coast League (PCL) team in 1994, a year that saw the 18-year-old prospect suit up in Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A and in the big leagues with the Mariners.
Cowtown baseball fans who witnessed Ken Griffey Jr. skip past the Cannons and play for the Mariners, were concerned the talented Rodriguez might achieve the same feat of by-passing the Triple-A level entirely.
“Calgary fans have had the luxury of seeing gems such as Danny Tartabull, Edgar Martinez and Harold Reynolds, but they missed out on the best player to come through Seattle’s system in the past decade – Ken Griffey Jr. leapfrogged to the M’s from Double-A,” wrote Calgary Herald reporter Gyle Konotopetz in an April 20, 1994 article.
“Now they could miss out on 18-year-old phenom Alex Rodriguez, a gifted shortstop touted as a future superstar.”
Such concerns were avoided in early August when Rodriguez was demoted to Foothills Stadium for his Pacific Coast League (PCL) assignment. In 119 at bats with the Cannons, he posted a .311 batting average, six homers, 21 RBI, 70 total bases, two stolen bases and a .359 on-base percentage.
Steve Smith, the manager of the Cannons, was thoroughly impressed by the rising star.
“This kid has all the tools,” Smith told the Herald.
“He’s not like some No. 1 picks who are afraid of the pressure … Alex can handle the pressure. He’s a unique talent. He’s built like (Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal) Ripken, only he has more power than Ripken. He has the range of Ozzie Smith.”
Added Smith: “He makes some of the greatest plays you’ve ever seen.”
In a wide-ranging interview with Konotopetz, A-Rod discussed the troubled relationship he had with his father, Victor.
He also said that fear played a role in his success.
“I was always scared of not being good enough … sometimes, fear is good. It scares me not to be the best,” said Rodriguez.
One wonders if that sentiment may have played into his steroid use, which led to Rodriguez missing the entire 2014 season due to a performance-enhancing drugs (PED) suspension.
A-Rod may continue to pay the price if Hall of Fame voters ultimately determine he is not worthy of induction.
With the nickname “Little O” and his 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame, Vizquel never had to worry about any juicing allegations throughout his 24-year MLB playing career.
The Venezuelan, who received 24% of the vote last year, is now in his sixth year on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Like his fellow Calgary Cannon alum, Vizquel is expected to fall short of induction status while maintaining enough support to give voters more time to ponder his worthiness another year.
As mentioned, PED use is not a hurdle for the deft fielder who played his final MLB season with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012. There have, however, been troubling domestic abuse and sexual harassment allegations directed at Vizquel in recent years.
Voters willing to overlook his off-field issues, will consider what he achieved on the diamond.
Highly regarded for his defensive abilities between second and third base, Vizquel claimed 11 Gold Gloves. At the plate, he recorded 2,877 hits and swiped 404 bases in 2,968 games. The power numbers leave much to be desired. Vizquel only hit 80 career homers while producing a .352 slugging percentage. His batting was competent, not dominant.
Vizquel played parts of four seasons with the Cannons between 1988 and 1992, appearing in 94 games for Calgary during that period.
“He never had a real strong arm, like some shortstops did,” recalled Russ Parker, the owner of the Cannons, of Vizquel.
“He could make plays so effortless, a lot of it because he could read the ball coming off the bat so well. Everything was just so fluid … he’ll be remembered as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game.”
Lou Piniella, the manager of the Mariners when Vizquel played for Seattle in 1993, called the undrafted infielder “the greatest fielding shortstop” he ever saw. In his 2017 memoir entitled Lou: Fifty Years of Kicking Dirt, Playing Hard, and Winning Big in the Sweet Spot of Baseball, Piniella said he expected Vizquel would one day qualify for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
We’ll have to wait until Jan. 24th for the results of the BBWAA voting, which will be announced live on MLB Network.