The first thing to note is that this is clearly not Vizquel. Hell, the uniform even says “Coles” on the back. Obviously, it’s Darnell Coles, and someone at Donruss dropped the ball. So it was that when I saw Vizquel’s 89 Upper Deck after seeing this card, I was confused, as I hadn’t noticed the Coles writing on the jersey. I wish there had been a corrected version, but…well, it wasn’t going to happen.
Anyway, Omar signed with the Mariners at age 17, in 1984, and actually took his time rising through the minor leagues, suffering some real off-years as he ascended. Early on, it looked like he might have some power, though, as he hit five home runs at low A Bellingham in 1985, when he also hit .225/.270/.353. By 1988, at age 21, he had risen to AAA Calgary, where he hit .224/.259/.327, but was highly regarded for his amazing glove. As such, he earned an invite to Spring Training in 89.
Vizquel ended up making the team when shortstop Rey Quinones went AWOL for the first week or so of Spring Training while refusing to negotiate his contract. Vizquel ended up winning the shortstop position and Quinones would be dealt to the Pirates in April. It helped that the 22-year-old Vizquel had a nice, sharp Spring Training with both the stick and the glove.
Manager Jim Lefebvre thought that Vizquel would eventually become a great hitter. Vizquel provided a really interesting quote at the time, though: “I think shortstops in modern baseball need to hit at least .250 or .260. There are a lot of good hitters among shortstops in the big leagues. I got off to a slow start, but I think I can hit .250 or .260.” His career average so far? .273. Very nice, Omar! 1989 didn’t provide much of a hint of that, though.
Oh, and he didn’t hit his first homer until July. His only one of the year. But then again, Omar was never a big home run hitter.
So for someone whose forte was the glove, why is this the only card that depicts him with the glove? I don’t get it at all. Of course, this is not my favorite card of Omar from 1989; that honor would go to the Upper Deck High Numbers card, which to me just seems to encapsulate a Spring game. I do appreciate the puffy Mariners hat in this shot. Those things always seemed to make the wearer’s head expand, amusing the hell out of me. It inspired me to pick up my own version, which I wore pretty religiously in my games during the summer of 89.
Omar stayed with Seattle through 1993, when they traded him to Cleveland for Felix Fermin and Reggie Jefferson, a trade that would live in infamy for Seattle fans, even though A-Rod was in the wings. For his career with the Mariners, Omar hit .252/.309/.303, but he had one hell of a glove. Total Zone (TZ which is designed to emulate advanced fielding metrics with only PBP data) was 62 during that era. If you’re not familiar with the scale, that’s REALLY good. Vizquel’s reputation with his glove was definitely earned. I’m sure I’ll talk more about Omar’s career sometime in the future, as I have a great deal of respect for him and what he’s accomplished on the field. For now, I’ll just say that I understand why the M’s moved him, but I understand fans missing him, too.
This is the card I was talking about. It just perfectly captures, for me, what playing baseball on a nice Spring day is all about. I think that’s why I liked it so much; I could relate. The memory of standing like that for the national anthem is still very strong in my mind. It makes me long for my playing days. That’s what I think the best cards evoke: personal experience tied to what you’re seeing. 1989 Upper Deck had some crap photography, that’s for sure, but this one is an example of what I liked about it. My only complaint is that the angle is slightly unfortunate for numerous reasons. A shot from his side would have been better, but eh, it’s really nitpicking. Classic.