Yes, I do feel badly about ripping on Omar Vizquel.
Who has been the worst White Sox position player this year? I'm sure I'll hear many different answers to this, as there are many that can be blamed for sinking the 2011 White Sox. Adam Dunn would be a popular choice - and that offensive offensive line from a designated hitter is good support. Certainly Alex Rios, contributing one of the worst performances by an outfielder ever (and recently from the clean-up spot), would get votes. Mark Teahen is in the mix. Brent Morel has his vocal critics. And for those who want to get cute, Dallas McPherson and Donny Lucy could be cited.
The title of the post gives away another possibility. I'm not so much interested in resolving the question as wondering why Omar Vizquel gets a pass from the media, fans and management. I already had this post started when a few of us got into a discussion over Twitter regarding how the White Sox should have gotten Dayan Viciedo on the roster, say, back in June when we really started banging the drum for him. I, as I have before, raised the option of dumping Vizquel. Of course, that was met with a "then who is your utility infielder" - which, of course, presupposes that Vizquel is an adequate utility infielder. A response to that was "Vizquel is competent."
Yes, I understand that Vizquel is seen as one of the many untouchables on the roster so the White Sox would not actually have dumped him (just like they never would have benched Dunn or Rios and, thus, could not have called up Viciedo in any event because then he wouldn't be playing everyday as Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen both agreed he had to). But let's suspend for a moment this illogical reality we live in as White Sox fans. What did Vizquel actually bring to the team?The answer, at least on the field, is nothing. I know Vizquel is a really nice guy. I'm sure he's awesome in the locker room. I don't doubt that he offers solid mentoring to the young players. He definitely has the intangibles. However, coaches can be in the locker room. And they can also mentor. Using an active roster spot on an intangibles player is a luxury for a team. And, at some point, a sub-.500 team should realize they can't afford luxuries that don't clearly show up in the box score. Those teams need production.
And Vizquel is simply not productive. Pick your poison. His triple slash is .252/.285/.303. His OPS+ is 60. His wOBA is .257. So the offense is Rios-bad. As for his defense, his FRAA is -3.2. And if you don't trust defensive statistics, focus your eyes. He gets a pass from some because he makes plays look pretty. Of course, the only plays he can actually make look pretty are those approximately five feet to either side of him. That's his "competence." He simply cannot play shortstop anymore. He is a huge liability at third. He's a slightly less huge liability at second.
I'm sure there are a few readers out there thinking, "Vizquel is a bench player, he isn't supposed to be that good." And that's the very point. Bench players are generally expendable, dumpable, swappable when the need arises. And the White Sox needed offense. A swap for Viciedo would have helped the team. Who cares that for 72 of the 1178 innings at shortstop that Alexei Ramirez has not played the White Sox would not have a "recognized" shortstop. Take the name off the back and you couldn't recognize Vizquel as a shortstop, either. Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel or Brent Lillibridge all could suck at shortstop as much as him and actually are quite likely to all be better.
Now, back to White Sox reality. As Jim pointedly summed up: "Somehow, every piece of a sub-.500 team was elevated to a necessity." Chris Rongey said "personalities do have to be managed." Basically, you had management wearing blinders, refusing to change their preconceived notions of the players and their roles for the season, and you had entitled players refusing to give up those roles - all in the midst of some of the worst individual baseball performances in history. That's how obstinance sunk the 2011 White Sox. And Omar Vizquel, miscast in the role of Competent Utility Infielder, was a small part of it.