2020 will likely not be Omar Vizquel’s year to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame, but that day may be coming ever quickly. As polarizing a case as any PED non-user on the ballot, the defensive dynamo is trending strongly towards immortality.
New Year’s Eve also served as the final day for Hall of Fame voters to postmark their ballots, and while not all ballots will be made public when the 2020 class is unveiled in three weeks, Vizquel should have a clearer idea of his future in Cooperstown.
As of Jan. 1, Vizquel appears on 47.0% of ballots submitted to Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs on Twitter), who tracks Hall of Fame ballots year-round. Overall, the shortstop has gained 12 votes from returning voters, and lost 2, for a net of 10 additional votes. While that accounts for just 27.9% of the ballots that could be submitted, Vizquel’s upward trajectory bodes well for his candidacy.
The bad news is that Vizquel finished with a lower share of private votes in 2019, meaning that his rising tide may sink once the official numbers coming out.
Vizquel’s current 47% mark is already higher than it was a year ago, when he finished with 182 votes, 42.8% of the final tally.
In his first year on the ballot in 2018, Vizquel earned 34.0% of the votes, and as Hall of Fame historian Jay Jaffe notes, only Steve Garvey went unelected by the Baseball Writers Association with a higher share (41.6%) in his initial turn. Since 1966, 11 players have been elected after a sub-34% debut.
Also, the 10-player limit for voters has taken Vizquel off of a few ballots, including The Athletic’s Dan Hayes, who said he would have included Vizquel had he been able to fit him. That problem should fade during voting for the 2021 class.
Derek Jeter will clear at least one spot on the ballot with his inevitable induction, Larry Walker will age off the ballot even if not elected, and currently, he, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds are all above the election threshold.
With Aramis Ramirez, Tim Hudson and Torii Hunter headlining the first-year players on next year’s ballot, Vizquel is sure to pick up a few votes.
There is a solid divide between analytically-minded voters and those going by the eye test and traditional stats, the former of which are often opposed to Vizquel’s candidacy.
Given that the analytical type are generally younger, the addition of new voters and subsequent removal of voters who have aged out or left the game may cause stagnation in votes for the shortstop.
Only 1 of 5 first-time voters have selected Vizquel, though the ballots being loaded with deserving candidates likely has something to do with that.
As of New Year's Day, Vizquel needs 255 more votes for election but has qualified for next year’s ballot.