Omar Vizquel’s last multiyear contract expired in 2007. Ever since, baseball observers have speculated about when the Venezuelan marvel will retire as a player.
It appears we have the answer.
“I think this is going to be it for me,” Vizquel told FOXSports.com Wednesday morning. “This is going to be my last year.”
Vizquel left himself some wiggle room, saying later in a 17-minute interview that he is only “51 percent” sure that he’s going to retire after the 2012 season. A nonpareil defensive shortstop who won 11 Gold Glove awards – including nine in a row – Vizquel is viewed by many as a likely Hall of Famer.
Vizquel, 45, said the biggest reason he’s ready to retire is the reduced playing time he’s had over the past two seasons. He appeared in 58 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2011 and only five this year with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“They think because I’m old that I probably can’t do the things I used to do,” he said. “It’s hard to go through that process and feel as good as you feel. I feel pretty good, but they probably say, ‘I don’t think he’s going to be able to do this and that.’
“I feel I can go out there and do the job. I don’t know. It’s hard to put an age to how I feel. I obviously don’t feel 45. I’ve seen some 45-year-olds. They’re in pretty bad shape.”
When asked if he had thought about keeping up with Jamie Moyer, who is pitching at 49 this season, Vizquel laughed and said, “I don’t think I’m going to go that far.”
Vizquel has been impressed with his young, talented teammates in Toronto. (“We just have to learn how to play as a team,” he said. “It’s going to take a while.”) Vizquel is the backup for second baseman Kelly Johnson and shortstop Yunel Escobar; manager John Farrell said Wednesday that he expects Vizquel to play during the upcoming three-city trip.
“I still have the passion to get up early in the morning – (on) a day like today, come and stretch and take B.P.,” Vizquel said, before Toronto’s matinee against the Texas Rangers. “My body doesn’t feel that ache and pain, like, ‘Oh (man), I have to get up and go to the ballpark.’ I feel excited about coming to the ballpark. Maybe not every day, because there are going to be some days you’re going to be sore. But I still feel I want to be here. I want to compete.”
Vizquel was asked if he might request a trade late in the season, in the event that the Blue Jays are out of contention, so he has the best chance of playing in October one more time. “I don’t know,” said Vizquel, who has reached the postseason six times – including two World Series – without winning it all. “That’s a hard question. I like this team a lot. I hope we can do that on this team. It’s too early to say.”
Vizquel knows that he wants to remain involved in baseball after he retires as a player. He makes his offseason home in Issaquah, Wash., and has been a U.S. citizen since the 1990s.
“I do want to manage, but I don’t know if you can get a job right away as a manager,” he said. “You’ve got to pay your dues and maybe be a coach somewhere. You don’t know where destiny is going to take you.”
Vizquel said he would be willing to work as a minor-league manager or coach “if the situation is right,” preferably with an organization he already knows well. Vizquel spent roughly half of his career with the Cleveland Indians. He also played for the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, Rangers and White Sox before joining the Blue Jays this year.
Vizquel said he won’t play for Team Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic next spring. Vizquel believes Luis Sojo will return as the manager, so he doesn’t expect to be a candidate for that job. “If I get an invitation as a coach, that would be great,” Vizquel said. “I would love to do it.”