Omar Vizquel: 9 Greats to Join Chicago White Sox in Twilight of Their Careers
Omar Vizquel is one the greatest shortstops in MLB history, perhaps the greatest. He was a defensive genius and is closing in on 3,000 hits. Vizquel joined the Chicago White Sox in 2010, and in signing with the White Sox, joined an elite class.
While it looked like he might end up retiring as a member of the White Sox, Vizquel signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last week.
That class isn't the one people might expect. He didn't become one of dozens of players to put together great performances in a White Sox uniform. Rather, he became one of those Hall of Fame-caliber players who joined the White Sox in the late stages of their careers.
That class of players is unrivaled by any other collective assembled by other teams. No other team can say that such a large number of great players made sure to put on the White Sox uniform before calling it a career.
Following is a short list of Hall of Famers and future Hall of Fame players who played for the White Sox in the late stages of their careers.
Johnny Evers, a member of the fabled Chicago Cubs double play combination Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, donned the White Sox uniform for just one game. He appeared with the White Sox after being out of the MLB for two years.
Evers did nicely in that one game. He went 0-for-3 with two walks and a run driven in. Also, he helped turn a double play.
Evers would disappear from the majors for several years before coming back in 1929 for another cup of coffee, appearing as a defensive replacement in a game for the Boston Braves.
Evers wasn't one the very best second basemen. He didn't make contact frequently like Ty Cobb or slug like Ryne Sandberg or Jeff Kent. Still, he made the Hall of Fame.
Therefore, he makes this list.
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Roberto Alomar is an essential member of this list. In 2003, the White Sox acquired Alomar from the New York Mets for three prospects. Alomar, 35, didn't do too bad that season but wasn't a special part of the team, either. In 296 plate appearances, Alomar had a .330 on-base percentage. He hit three home runs, drove in 18 runs and stole six bases.
Apparently, Kenny Williams was enamored with Alomar. Williams traded for Alomar once again in 2004, this time from the Arizona Diamondbacks for a minor league player. Alomar's second term with the White Sox was even less illustrious. He had 65 plate appearances in 18 games, posting a .203 on-base percentage with eight runs driven in.
Alomar would sign with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in January 2003, and then retire two months later.
He made few lasting memories in a White Sox uniform, but his unspectacular play on the south side of Chicago made his place on this list that much greater.
Steve Carlton was 41 years old when he signed with the White Sox in August 1986. This signified neither the best years of Carlton's career, nor a bright spot in Hawk Harrelson's brief tenure as White Sox general manager. Carlton went 4-3 with a 3.69 earned run average. He pitched an unimpressive 63.1 innings in 10 starts.
The old flamethrower didn't have the fire he one put on the ball. Carlton struck out only 40 batters while walking 25. That made for a poor strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.6.
He ended up with a total record that year of 9-14 with a 5.10 earned run average.
After two more seasons, Carlton retired. He had spent his last gasps of major league ball with the White Sox, as well as four other teams in his last three years.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Kenny Williams was sure to grab an old slugger in Ken Griffey Jr. to aid the playoff chase in 2008. Griffey, 38, came from the Cincinnati Reds at the trade deadline in exchange for pitcher Nick Masset and infielder Danny Richar. Griffey wasn't the diamond gem that he used to be. He didn't have the speed to track balls down like he did in his Seattle Mariners days.
Occasionally, Griffey made big catches.
Also, Griffey didn't have his game at the plate anymore. He knocked off only three home runs to go with 18 runs driven in. To his credit, Griffey posted a respectable .751 on-base-plus-slugging rate in his 150 plate appearances for the White Sox.
In the American League Divisional Series against the Rays, Griffey collected only two singles and a walk in 11 plate appearances.
He would play two seasons with the Mariners before hanging it up. Before returning to his first team, it wasn't all said and done for "The Kid" before he put on the Chicago pinstripes.
Vizquel didn't have much left, but the 11-time Gold Glove winner made a significant contribution while playing for the White Sox. He put up a .341 on-base percentage and 30 runs driven in 108 games in 2010, and then eight runs driven in to go with a quiet .287 on-base percentage.
Nevertheless, his impact wasn't with his bat. Vizquel coached up Alexei Ramirez into a fine shortstop. Ramirez was a raw talent before Vizquel came along. The aging infield magician taught Ramirez how to follow the ball and approach infield plays.
The results became apparent. Ramirez saw his fielding percentage improve in 2010 and 2011 (from .969 in 2009 to .974 in 2010 and .977 in 2011). His range factor per game (4.79) was the best among AL shortstops in 2010.
Vizquel didn't make a great individual contribution in his White Sox tenure, but he made his mark by passing on his defensive magic.
After playing for the Cubs for 14 years, Ron Santo moved his game to the south side of Chicago to play out his final year. He had been traded before the 1974 season to the White Sox for Steve Swisher, Steve Stone, Ken Frailing and Jim Kremmel.
Santo, 35, managed to fill starting roles for the White Sox, playing second base, his natural third base and designated hitter. His offensive numbers were way off. Santo had a .293 on-base percentage, 55 points lower than his previous year and 59 points lower than his career rate. He hit five home runs and drove in 41 runs. He doubled 12 times.
Santo posted a negative wins above replacement for only the second time in his career, putting up a minus-2.1 figure.
Santo will always be remembered for wearing the Cubbie blue, but he ended up a man in black for the last year of his career.
Larry Doby had played his last two years as a starter with the White Sox in 1956 and 1957. Then, he came back to the White Sox for one last, less relevant year in 1959. In 1959, Doby was a shadow of his old run-producing self. He had a .267 on-base percentage to go with12 doubles, three triples and nine runs driven in.
His 21 White Sox games saw him play four positions, all outfield positions and first base.
The man who broke the color barrier in the AL started and ended his career with the same quixotic owner, Bill Veeck, beginning it with the Cleveland Indians and finishing it with the Chicago White Sox.
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Sandy Alomar Jr.
Sandy Alomar Jr. played out most of his waning years of his MLB career with the White Sox. He played for the White Sox for most of five seasons between 2001 and 2006. For him, that was from age 35 to 40.
Alomar played 265 games and made 834 plate appearances on the south side of Chicago.
Alomar wasn't the same after his 11-year Cleveland Indians tenure. He had a total on-base percentage for the White Sox of .291 to go with 37 doubles, 19 home runs and 94 runs batted in.
Alomar, who was always known to be great at handling pitchers, was the preferred catcher of Mark Buehrle.
Alomar only had one season with the White Sox in which he had an on-base percentage above .300. In 2002, he had a .309 on-base rate to go with five home runs, 27 runs driven in and 10 doubles in 70 games before being traded to the Colorado Rockies in late July.
Alomar made his last stint with the White Sox in the latter part of the 2006 season after being acquired in a trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit his last major league home runs in that stint. Also, he had eight runs batted in and a .255 on-base percentage.
In 2007, Alomar played eight games for the New York Mets before calling it a career.
Alomar made his name with the Indians as a fine hitter and a one-of-a-kind catcher, but he sustained his career with the White Sox.
Tom Seaver played two-plus years for the White Sox towards the end of his career. In that time, he went 33-28 with a 3.69 earned run average in 547.1 innings pitched in that time.
Seaver did well in his first two years for the White Sox. In 1984, Seaver went 15-11 with a 3.95 earned run average in 236.2 innings pitched. He struck out only 131 batters while walking 61.
He came back to mid-career form in 1985, his 19th MLB season. Seaver went 16-11 with a 3.17 earned run average in 238.2 innings pitched. He struck out 134 batters while walking 69. Indeed, he did throw a curiously high 10 wild pitches, eighth most in the AL.
His earned run average was sixth in the AL and he had a 3.4 win probability added figure, eighth best in the AL.
In 1986, age kicked back its head and Seaver lost his pitching magic. He went 2-6 for the White Sox with a 4.38 earned run average before being traded to the Boston Red Sox for Steve Lyons, who would serve as a nice middle infielder for the White Sox.