Dickey: Time for Giants, Omar to part ways

It’s always sad to see a great player lose his special skills while still unwilling to acknowledge that. Willie Mays lost his home run stroke three years before he retired and famously misjudged a fly ball in the 1973 World Series.

After making a nice comeback for two years, Willie McCovey lost it in 1980 and had to retire in midseason. (My memory is that he couldn’t get around on the fastball, but when we talked this spring, he said breaking pitches were the biggest problem.)

The latest example is Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel, who can still perform wonders in the field but is no longer a major-league hitter.

Vizquel is justifiably proud of the way he made himself into a good hitter. Two years ago, he was still a marvel to watch, using his speed to beat out bunts and wielding his bat almost like a tennis racket, guiding the ball into vacant spots in the outfield.

That mastery ended abruptly last season, when he hit just .246. The optimists called his season a slump, but unless they’re injured, hitters don’t slump for an entire season. I wrote that his problem was a 40-year-old bat and that it wouldn’t get any better.

This year, he’s been much worse. After going 2-for-4 Thursday, he was hitting just .159. That was a handful of points higher than rookie Brian Bocock, who was optioned to Fresno because he was overmatched against big-league pitching — and Bocock had a higher on-base percentage.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy, the eternal optimist, says that Vizquel’s hitting will come around. It won’t. Vizquel might be able to nudge his average above .200, but in this power era in baseball, a team can no longer afford a .200 hitter, even at shortstop, where defense is the biggest priority.

Meanwhile, another rookie shortstop, Emmanuel Burriss, has been very good defensively and has hit much better than expected, .277 in his first 101 at-bats.

So, what’s to be done? Bochy said he would be resting Vizquel more, to give Burris some playing time (Burriss can also play second, when Ray Durham is injured or needs a rest). Vizquel said he has no argument with that.

But for a team whose main goal this season should be to develop players who can be an important part of their future, that’s not enough. In the battle of rookie shortstops, Burriss has moved ahead of Bocock. He needs to play on a regular basis, so the Giants can get a good gauge on his potential.

Understandably, Vizquel doesn’t want to forfeit any of the salary due him, but the Giants should agree to pay him for the rest of the season if he retires this month. The Giants could stage a nice ceremony for him before one of their late-July games and he could segue into coaching. His advice would certainly speed the development of Burriss and any other young infielders the Giants mightbring up.

Omar Vizquel has been an example of everything that is good about baseball. He has played well and worked hard in a career in which he has played the most games at his position, and he has always been a positive presence in the clubhouse. He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and now, he should retire while we can remember him at his best.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

Glenn Dickeysports

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

New plan provides a road map to better transit for Bayview residents

SFMTA to review suite of 101 projects designed to improve community safety and access

Video shows angry 49ers fan throwing items at cashier on Super Bowl Sunday

San Francisco police are asking the public for help identifying an aggressive… Continue reading

Mandelman bringing bathhouses back to The City

New ordinance would amend health code restrictions imposed in 1980s

Trump issues pardon to Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the long-time owner… Continue reading

Bernie Sanders draws large crowd at Richmond rally

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders drew a large crowd at… Continue reading

Most Read