Despite bouncing around clubs –– three teams in the last three years –– Vizquel has been able to hang around the game for 24 years.
But at 45, Vizquel has realized the ride is over. Before Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox, the veteran expressed his intention to retire at the end of the 2012 season, likely ending a career that should warrant induction into the Hall of Fame.
Vizquel was never a slugging threat, totaling just 80 home runs and 946 RBIs entering the second game of the series against Boston. But he’s keyed clubs with his flawless defense and consistent at-bats, collecting 11 Gold Gloves and 2,854 hits.
In addition to those recognitions, Vizquel is the all-time leader in double plays started. His ability to maintain that defensive prowess in 24 seasons, despite waning playing time, is a testament to his offseason work.
“The secret is, without a doubt, my exercise routine and being able to stay in shape in any given moment,” Vizquel said. “Especially with positions like shortstop or second base, that you have to be athletic, flexible and agile. My work at the gym has given me the strength and energy to keep playing.”
Vizquel’s numbers, when stacked against Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, are comparable. Through 19 seasons, Smith earned 13 Gold Gloves and amassed 2,460 career hits while finishing with 28 homers and 793 RBIs.
Smith, of course, has the edge with a World Series championship. Despite stringing together a successful career, Vizquel understands there would a hole on his resume if he doesn’t win one this season.
“Individually, winning the World Series is something very important for one’s career,” Vizquel said. “I had an opportunity to play in two of them, but unfortunately I couldn’t be a champion in 1995 and 1997.”
If he doesn’t walk out on top, he’s still pieced an unprecedented run. By the end of the season, he’ll likely finish just shy of the 3,000-hit mark with 2,854 hits, an impressive accomplishment in itself.
Through it all, he fooled Father Time.