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Jose Vizcaino, the life of a utility infielder
2006-08-15 12:13
by Bob Timmermann

On Monday, the San Francisco Giants cut loose utility infielder Jose Vizcaino. His last at bat with the Giants was when he bunted into a fielder's choice against the Dodgers Sunday night.

Vizcaino didn't seem too upset when he spoke with Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle

"I was talking to my wife a half an hour ago and I told her I wouldn't mind if they did that," the 38-year-old utilityman said. "I'm not playing here. I've never been on a team where I went two weeks without playing. I'm glad this happened. I was not happy here.

Vizcaino broke in with the Dodgers on September 10, 1989 in a 14-4 Dodgers rout over the Padres in San Diego. Two other Dodgers made their major league debuts: catcher Darrin Fletcher and pitcher Mike Hartley.

Vizcaino appeared in 37 games for the Dodgers in 1990 and at the end of the year was traded to the Cubs for the Phenom Who Wasn't, Greg Smith, who much to my surprise actually played in five games for the Dodgers.

Two years of part-time utility duty followed, but in 1993, Vizcaino got into 151 games for the Cubs and batted .287. He played shortstop (81 games), third base (44 games), and second base (34 games).

When the 1993 season ended, the Cubs dealt Vizcaino to the Mets for pitcher Anthony Young, who in three seasons with the Mets was 5-35.

The Mets made Vizcaino their everyday shortstop in 1994, replacing their six-headed shorstop group of the season before. Vizcaino held on to the job in 1995, but in 1996, he was displaced in favor of Rey Ordonez and shunted over to second base.

Before the trade deadline (July 29) in 1996, the Mets dealt Vizcaino and Jeff Kent to Cleveland for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza. It was an unpopular deal in Cleveland at the time, but Baerga's rapidly expanding wasteline led to declining production made people forget about it.

Vizcaino got into three of the four games in the Indians four game loss to Baltimore in the Division Series and went 3 for 12.

And soon after the season was over (November 13), Vizcaino was involved in another controversial trade as he, Kent, and Julian Tavarez were traded to San Francisco for Matt Williams, who was a beloved figure by Giants fans.

As it turned out, Williams would hit 32 home runs and almost get a World Series ring with Cleveland in 1997, but he would be traded to Arizona in the offseason. Meanwhile, Kent turned in six seasons of over 100 RBI and over 20 home runs with the Giants.

But Vizcaino played just one season in this stint in San Francisco, playing in 151 games, almost all of them at shortstop. He started all three games of the Giants Division Series loss to the Marlins.

Now, Vizcaino was a free agent and he returned to his original team, the Dodgers. But he never played much in Los Angeles in 1998 or 1999 and in 2000, he was dealt to the Yankees in exchange for Jim Leyritz. Vizcaino was given the job of being the second baseman who was not Chuck Knoblauch, whose fielding woes were becoming legendary.

Vizcaino adequately fulfilled his non-Knoblauch role and got a chance to start Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium against the Mets. And in the 12th of Game 1, Vizcaino ended the game with an RBI single off of Turk Wendell. Vizcaino then went hitless in his next 11 at bats in the World Series, but he got his ring and his place in World Series history.

The Yankees didn't keep Vizcaino around as Knoblauch moved to left fielder where he could hurt fewer people and Alfonso Soriano took over second base fulltime. So, Vizcaino signed with Houston, where he put in five seasons as a utility man.

And in the 2005 World Series, Vizcaino looked like he was going to relive the magic of Game 1 of the 2000 Series. The Astros were trailing the White Sox with two outs in the ninth with runners on second and third. Fireballing reliever Bobby Jenks was in and, surprisingly, he called on Vizcaino to pinch hit for Adam Everett. Vizcaino singled to left to tie the game. But the joy was short-lived, when Brad Lidge gave up a home run to Scott Podsednik in the bottom of the ninth.

Vizcaino signed as a free agent with the Giants for a second go round there, but didn't play much despite the frequent injuries by Giants second baseman Ray Durham. In a team loaded with veterans, manager Felipe Alou probably realized that you can have too much experience.

And now Vizcaino is out looking for work. Hey, the Padres need a third baseman and Vizcaino lives near there. He may just come back once again.

2006-08-15 12:54:33
1.   Cliff Corcoran
Actually, Knoblauch played left field for the Yankees in 2001 while Soriano took over 2B. Knoblauch went to KC for the 2002 season.
2006-08-15 13:03:12
2.   Bob Timmermann
Thanks, fixed that. And it makes for a funnier joke now!
2006-08-15 13:04:12
3.   kegtron
I remember feeling sorry for Anthony Young during his 27 game losing streak. He even started crying on the mound during one of his starts.

I also had a baseball card of his that was worth like 2 or 3 bucks before the streak and wasn't even listed in the Beckett after the streak. One day when I have 12 hours worth of free time I'll dig thru my collection and try to find it.

2006-08-15 13:20:30
4.   Greg Brock
Anthony Young's ERA, by year:

1991: 3.10
1992: 4.17 (2-14)
1993: 3.77 (1-16)
1994: 3.92
1995: 3.70
1996: 4.59

Who weeps for Anthony Young? The guy's probably a three starter today.

2006-08-15 13:23:21
5.   Bob Timmermann
Young's losing streak ended when the Mets scored twice in the bottom of the ninth against the Marlins to win 5-4 after Young had coughed up the go-ahead run to Florida in the top of the ninth.

Ryan Thompson and Eddie Murray drove in the tying and winning runs.

2006-08-15 14:19:44
6.   kegtron
Not only did those Mets lose 103 games, they did so while producing an unstinting stream of evil deeds. Take July 24, for example. Relief pitcher Anthony Young loses his record 27th consecutive game. In the post-game celebration, Vince Coleman throws a firecracker into a group of kids. Let's play two!

2006-08-15 22:55:41
7.   Cliff Corcoran
6 Wasn't that Bob Klapisch's The Worst Team Money Could Buy? Saberhagen throwing bleach on reporters, Bobby Bo offering to show Bob the Bronx. Bad times. Very bad times.
2006-08-16 23:34:24
8.   das411
7 - Fun book though.

That was Game 2 of the WS that the Viz tied up off of Jenks, right Bob? Managed by Phil Garner, who had a somewhat Vizcaino-like career himself, complete with one Series ring and the loss in 2005!

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