Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010
Updated at 9:17 PM
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO Who saved the Chicago White Sox season in 2010? If you ask one very important judge, it was the oldest player on the team.
Omar has impressed me so much, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of 43-year-old Omar Vizquel after Chicago had stormed from 9 games down to take over the Central Division lead before the All-Star break. His defense, his leadership, hes had some key hitseverything started to turn around for us when he started playing regularly.
Vizquel was pressed into action after incumbent third sacker Mark Teahen broke his finger in May, but played so well Teahen was unable to regain the hot corner upon his return. Surely, Vizquel wont be depended on to play 108 games in 2011, a fact he seemed resigned to upon re-signing.
Im clear about my situation, Vizquel said during a conference call on Monday. I know my job is going to be as a backup player. Whatever happens this year, I will take it in and enjoy it like its going to be my last year again.
Vizquel was acknowledging the fact that he had all but announced hed be embarking on his farewell tour or major league parks during 2010, but his surprising productionpotent offense and acceptable defense at three infield positionspersuaded him to play another year.
Guillen, who had a respectful--but at times testy--relationship with the player just three years his junior, went so far as to say Vizquel could play at least another couple of yearsthrough 2012if he chose.
Ozzies a different guy, Vizquel said in reference to the 180 degrees of temperament difference between the two Venezuelans. You dont know what to expect from him sometimes. But he just finds a way to get you going and press your buttons. Thats the way a manager has to be sometimes.
The manager made a number of joking comments in reference to protecting Vizquel given his advanced age but overall was in awe of his veteran infielder.
There wasnt any extra wear and tear, Vizquel said of his condition after 108 games in 2010. My body responded awesome. The challenge was great, and the way I prepared myself in the offseason, I was up to the challenge.
Vizquel hit .276 with 11 doubles, two home runs and 30 RBI and logged an on-base percentage of .341, better than his career average. He made 62 starts at third base, 19 at second, eight at shortstop and one as designated hitter.
He achieved a major career milestone at the Detroit Tigers in September, playing his 2,832nd game, the most of any player born outside of the United States. The all-time record stood at 2,850 as of the end of the 2010 season.
Vizquel is generally considered the greatest fielding shortstop ever, a fact thats supported by the archaic but prevalent fielding percentage statistic (.985 all-time). As such, the native of Caracas, Venezuela won 11 Gold Gloves as a shortstop (1993-2001, 2005-06).
Vizquel originally signed with the White Sox as a free agent on November 23, 2009. He had been targeted by GM Ken Williams as early as 2004, when the veteran was close to inking a deal with the White Sox before the San Francisco Giants swooped in, offering a third year to their offer.
The veteran has made no secret of his desire to one day manage in the majors, and soon.
Im really preparing myself to manage, Vizquel said. I would like to manage as soon as possible. I have the experience and the knowledgeThe experience from my playing days will translate into good enthusiasm and a positive way to manage.
Vizquel was re-signed within 24 hours of the end of the World Series. This year marks the debut of a shorter window that teams have to re-sign their own free agents, reduced from 15 days to five. That gives Chicago four more days to re-up Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, J.J. Putz, Mark Kotsay, Freddy Garcia, Manny Ramirez or Andruw Jones without outside competition.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.