Liotta: Omar’s impending record a testament to character

If 90 percent of success is just showing up, as Woody Allen has been credited with saying, then Omar Vizquel is poised to become the most successful major-league shortstop of all time. The title suits him.

Today against the Marlins, Vizquel is expected to tie Luis Aparicio’s record for most career games played at shortstop, having already played more games there than Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken.

Sure, he has played the position with a dazzling array of skills that have earned him 11 Gold Gloves and he has been physically able to play the game’s most demanding position — forget it, catchers, shortstops have you beat — for 20 seasons, but Vizquel’s achievement says so much about what he contributes to his team.

Realize that a major-league manager, whose job is on the line every night in a position judged by wins and losses, will have written Vizquel’s name into his lineup as his shortstop more times than any other player in the history of the game. That’s all you need to know when it comes time for Vizquel to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

And yet, as valuable as he has been — for as long as he has been valuable — to the teams whose uniform he has donned for all these years, that’s by no means the best part about Omar Vizquel. If you had the chance to meet one major-leaguer in your life, I’d recommend it be Omar Vizquel.

Not only is he a professional’s professional, he’s friendly, personable, classy, interested in an eclectic variety of subjects, and simply a genuinely nice guy. Omar makes up for a whole bunch of jocks spoiled rotten by their success.

Random thoughts

» Kobe Bryant is a deserving MVP, but watching LeBron James carry the Cleveland Cavaliers through the playoffs was watching the best player in the game.

» The Dallas Cowboys get my vote for trying the hardest. They’ve thrown everything possible at this season in their attempt to win the Super Bowl. America’s Team may be the most interesting to watch come September. I’d bet Jerry Jones is watching videotape right now.

» If you missed Manchester United’s victory over archrival Chelsea in the Champions League final, you missed penalty kicks elevating the match to surreal theatre. Pouring rain. The best player in the world was the first to miss. Faced with the clincher for his team, Chelsea’s captain slipped and shanked his shot wide.

It took seven rounds — 14 kicks in all — to decide it. The difference came when Manchester United goalie Edwin van der Sar punched away a shot by Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka.

If you think professional athletes — millionaires one and all — are spoiled and jaded, you should have seen Manchester United, one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world, celebrate. They looked like Little Leaguers dancing for joy, hugging one another.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen smiles that big after an athletic competition on any level.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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