In baseball, the title of bench coach is relatively new. Typically, a coach in this role is seen as second in command of a club house, something of a right hand man to the manager, or an intercessor between players and their skipper. He will set up the practices for the team, organize stretching before games and fill in for the manager in other areas when necessary. It’s far from merely an “atta-boy” position, but the job is most often held by someone familiar with how a club house operates and with a reputation for having a positive influence on others.

I’m not privy to the day to day operations of the Toronto Blue Jays club house, but I wonder if the description above doesn’t describe veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel more accurately than the suggestion that he’s a Major League Baseball player.

Consider this: After the first month of the regular season, Vizquel has had fewer plate appearances than any position player in the league who has been on an MLB active roster since the beginning of the schedule. He has made three starts this season, plus four other appearances as a substitute for the Blue Jays, putting together a paltry 16 plate appearances and minuscule 30 and two third innings of defense.

This is to say absolutely nothing bad about Vizquel, who has stated his desire for more playing time. It’s questioning the purpose of the Blue Jays signing the veteran shortstop to a Minor League contract and then breaking camp with a player that ultimately serves only the most limited of roles on the team outside of merely being there.

We heard all about hispresence during Spring Training, and we continue to hear all about it on the team’s television broadcasts. I understand that there are intangible elements that contribute to a baseball team finding success. I understand that not everything can be measured or be made apparent through data. However, I also feel that as much as we might like to believe leadership and guidance is important, it’s not worth the cost of an active roster spot.

In other words, a usable bench player is of more worth than anything intangible that might be imparted.

As far as on field action goes, this has been Vizquel’s biggest contribution to the team:

Complaining about an umpire’s strike zone from the bench is not the normal territory of the 25th man on a roster. It’s the type of stuff a manager is supposed to do. If Vizquel’s presence is so vital to the team, why not give him a role to which he’s suitable instead of wasting a spot that could instead be filled by an extra bullpen arm or a bat off the bench that’s actually useful?

I can’t think of a situation so far this season in which the Blue Jays might have suffered from having what amounts to a 24 man roster, but if yesterday’s seventeen inning affair between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox teaches us anything, it’s that every roster spot can become important during a game … and that Chris Davis of all players has a really nice two seamer.

Consider this:

Playing Major League Baseball is taxing on one’s body. This is especially true in the American League East where the Blue Jays play. Wouldn’t it be better to mitigate the risks of injury to a starting lineup by having a player on the roster who the manager has enough faith in to fill in for a starter from time to time?

Again, it’s not Omar Vizquel’s fault that the Blue Jays have put him on their roster not to play. It’s the shortsightedness of the team to over value his presence as what’s essentially one more member of the coaching staff.

If the team didn’t want to use a player who hasn’t produced a single win above replacement in a season since 2007, they should have never offered him a contract in the first place, or stooped to the level of allowing him to make the team. The claim is that his contributions can’t be measured in terms of statistics, but I’d suggest that if this is the case, such contributions should come from the coaching staff, and not the roster.

After all, no other team in baseball uses their 25th man as little as the Blue Jays use Vizquel. And in the race for first place in the American League East, a race that is traditionally very close, every win matters and every player should be one that can contribute to a win in ways that can be counted and measured.

Comments (46)

  1. What the fuck? You think Lawrie, Escobar or Johnson should have had more off days after 29 games? Maybe we should consider the Blue Jays blessed that neither of those three have needed time off yet instead of pissing that Vizquel hasn’t been used? When one of these guys does go down, I’ll be sure as fuck happy that we’ve got someone who can keep the defensive capabilities high.

    How many games do you think the infielders should be sitting a year if they’re healthy?

    • This is exactly what I got out of this post too……

    • Bench guys not getting any playing time is about as bad a problem as the bullpen getting too much rest.

    • Do you actually think Vizquel would be the one to log regular playing time if one of those guys goes down? Clearly they would call someone up like Mike McCoy or Ruben Gotay who at this point are much better options than Vizquel.

      I know he WAS good defensively at one time, but he’s 45; it’s likely that any value that was in him is now long gone.

  2. Vizquel can still play. Amazing bat control, great on the hit and run and in sacrifice situations. D is still beautiful and plays at 2B & 3B in addition to SS. Escobar and Lawrie have been workhorses so far but it won’t last. We’re paying him peanuts. The “bench coach” stuff is a value add.

    Can’t wait to refer to this post when Lawrie breaks his hand sliding into 1B head-first and Vizquel is playing every day.

  3. Seriously? We’re complaining about a guy that barely plays (for good reason) and whose alternatives would have been Mike McCoy or Luis Valbuena?

    Who are you going to replace him with other than an equivalent, or at best marginally better, 25th man who barely plays but isn’t a mentor to your mercurial infielders and someone who shares a common heritage and language with the youngest player on your team.

    Ben Francisco is a far more useless member of the team than Vizquel.

  4. That BP injury days lost stat is also misleading, or at least suspect, because the Red Sox skew the averages. And it no way indicates that playing in the AL east has any correlation to more injuries.

  5. The fact that the Jays haven’t needed Vizquel says more about that Jays’ starters than it does about Vizquel. If they were to bring in Vladdy Guerrero or Derrek Lee (or call up Mike McDade or David Cooper) for a bat off the bench, I don’t think their contributions would make much of a difference. However if one of the infielders were to get injured, I’d much rather have Omar around than a big bat off the bench.

    Also, this is the first time I’ve seen anyone considering Omar Vizquel to be the most redundant player on the Jays’ bench.

    • I think Farrell, as evidenced by so few plate appearances, would the first to claim he’s the most redundant.

      • It’s a pretty big leap in logic to go from “Vizquel has barely been used” to “Farrell has no confidence in Vizquel’s ability to play”. The starting 2B, SS & 3B haven’t needed time off. End of story.

  6. I really don’t know what you’re expecting from a utility infielder making $750K. Do you want him to go to the plate 400 times and OPS in the .600s like he did for the White Sox in 2010?

    Puzzling post, to say the least.

    • I’m expecting the 25th man on a roster to be more useful than Vizquel, sort of like how it is for the 29 other teams in baseball.

      • Vizquel = career ops .690, this year .320

        Other teams utility infielders

        Orioles – Flaherty career ops .359, this year .359
        Red Sox – Punto career ops .650, this year .479
        Yankees – Nunez career ops .669, this year .693
        Rays- Brignac career ops .589, this year .284

        White Sox – Escobar career ops .413, this year .379
        Indians – Donald career ops .686, this year .379
        Tigers – Worth career ops .636, this year .425

        -gave up here since it is clear that uou are totally right every other team definitely has super useful backup – utility infielders that are just killing it at the plate /sarcasm

  7. Your only contributions to DJF this season have been negative based articles. There’s literally nothing to look forward to when you contribute an article because it’s going to be you going on another rant about why you think the Jays are wrong in whatever they are doing, and literally nothing else.

  8. ” they should have never offered him a contract in the first place, or stooped to the level of allowing him to make the team”

    Really?

    That’s a little overbearing and overstated, is it not?

    We’re talking about the 25th man here, not some key cog in the Blue Jays line-up. Like others have posted, what if it were Mike McCoy or Valbuena on the bench? Should one of those guys have played more? Is it about payroll (note: I hope we’re not complaining about anyone making less than $1M)? Slow day?

  9. Add me to the ‘baffled by this post’ list. I can’t see a point to this other than the need to write something after seeing the unusual act of Vizquel getting tossed, and the compelling if not misleading headline. The roster spot would be taken up by McCoy, or Valbuena, so yeah, big deal. Ben Francisco is the head-scratcher as far as roster spots go, no?

    Anyway Parkes, I get the feeling you are a bright and sensitive person, in real life, but you so consistently come off as smug. In spite of my criticism I think you’ve come a long long way as a writer. I hope you make that next leap. The Score has become one of the most important sources of Blue Jays coverage, and we have you, Stoeten, and Drew to thank for it. So, thank you, but…

    Fuck off, Parkes.

  10. So what’s being suggested is that the lack of playing time for Vizquel has more to do with how good Johnson, Escobar and Lawrie are than how bad Vizquel is? I think it might help to take a look around the league at other baseball teams.

  11. somebody really misses john mcdonald…

  12. I would tend to agree with Parkes on this. The 25th man isn’t on the roster to simply fill-in for the regulars when they need a day off. There are many situations in a ball game when a more useful body would be nice. Like how the Jays pitch ran for JP Arencibia with Jeff Mathis on Sunday. I wish we could have two Rajai Davis’.

    • Good point. I agree that Francisco is not an ideal 25th man.

      • Exactly. There’s no way Vizquel is the odd man out here. Solid defense and an extra bench coach is much more useful than an extra extra outfielder.

        Dustin, if you have a reason why Vizquel is less useful and/or more redundant than Fransisco, given who his replacement would have been, I’m all ears.

  13. I expect the playing time situation will correct itself as the season goes along, especially if Escobar keeps struggling.

    It’s weird that we all that Ben Francisco was the redundant 25th man on the team, and he’s ended up playing more than Vizquel. If this is all the PT they can give Omar, it’s no wonder they only kept one backup infielder.

  14. I still don’t understand what you’re getting at. What other team has an entrenched 2B-SS-3B combo all of whom are probably top 10-12 at each of their positions? Texas? The Yankees? That’s all I can think of off the top of my head, and even those teams have players with major durability issues (A-Rod, Beltre) that require them to be spelled on the field on regular occasion. They also have shitbags like Eduardo Nunez and Alberto Gonzalez in these utility/25th man spot on the bench, marginal upgrades over Vizquel. They also are summoned with more regularity due to the durability issues of their infielders. Are you throwing a fit because Vizquel has taken up a spot that does not require him to play on a regular basis when it could otherwise be filled by someone of the Eduardo Nunez or Alberto Gonzalez ilk?

    When and if one of Escobar, Johnson or Lawrie gets hurt for an extended period, Hechaverria (or god forbid) McCoy will probably come up. I doubt Vizquel will be relied upon at all for an extended period of time. Until one of them does get hurt, they’ll all be playing basically every day, so who gives a fuck?

    • Exactly.

      Parkes, you of all people should know that you don’t accumulate WAR by player, but by appearances. If Johnson, Escobar and Lawrie are healthy, you want to continue playing them instead of your shitty alternatives (McCoy, Vizquel, Valbuena). They make the appearances and will accumulate the WAR. If Vizquel had made a number of appearances and posted awful numbers, we’d have a problem. Instead, you’ve just invented one.

      Go back to complaining about McGowan’s contract. At least with that you had some semblance of a real point.

  15. He’s not getting any playing time because he is the spare infielder, and since everyone in the infield is healthy, he will keep sitting. If someone gets hurt like Johnson, Escobar or Lawrie, then that is when Omar will be valuable and get his shot. McCoy or Valbuena (if he wasn’t cut) would be sitting around doing the exact same thing only minus the wisdom.

  16. for once dustin writes a reasonable article. I agree completely. I would much rather have had jayson nix. for all his faults, he can rake lefties which is what you want from a bench player given all the lefties we have that can’t hit.

  17. with all these close games, I think the jays might have won a couple more with nix or derrek lee on thebench

  18. The Blue Jays had, like, 4 off-days in the first few weeks of the season. Everybody’s been getting ample rest because of the schedule, so there’s really been no need for a backup infielder to play very much. Context matters, doesn’t it?

  19. I’d rather have Omar Vizquel as the 25th man NOT getting any playing time and providing intangibles than Mike McCoy as the 25th man getting playing time because Farrell thinks he’s worth rolling out there.

    • I tend to agree. If your 25th is playing too much, you got other issues. Unless you’re the Yankees in the past where you’re good and deep enough and can afford decent players to become your bench players.

  20. It is possible that somebody in a position of power feels that Omar provides a fair bit more value in another area than McCoy/Nix etc. does with the bat. Call it intangibles, call it bench-coach, call it Spanish — are you actually talking about something that tangibly results in a difference of even a single win so far this season? I mean, yeah, we might need McCoy to bring his breaking ball to the mound in a 17-inning affair, but we might need a guy to talk Escobar off a ledge too — seems 50/50.

  21. Look, it would be nice if the Jays had a better MI backup. Or even a corner infield backup. But that being said:

    Lawrie & Escobar are plus defenders and don’t need a defensive replacement. Johnson is average, so maybe he could use one.
    Lawrie, Escobar and Johnson are all average to above average hitters and don’t need to be pinch hit for.
    As long as all three are healthy they’re going to be playing virtually every inning of every game outside of the one random day they need off.

    Is it such a bad thing then, that Vizquel, who might get 40 games over the season, of which a good number of those are just 1-2 inning defensive stints, plays on the bench? Maybe if the Jays found a guy with fantastic speed off the bench who could play quality D up the middle that’d be worth upgrading for. But realistically, Vizquel isn’t going to get enough play time to have any positive or negative effect on the team.

    And let’s not forget that the depth of the middle infield all over baseball has seen a decline.

  22. “Playing Major League Baseball is taxing on one’s body. This is especially true in the American League East where the Blue Jays play.”

    You dumb fuck. Read that to yourself. In the voice of JPA’s impersonation of Tim Kurkjian.

    There are 25 roster spots. There are 6 coaching spots allowed during games. Even if your shitty article had a point, there is no chance the 25th man on a MLB roster has more impact throughout the year then the 6th coach. There have been 11 games in the last 5 years that went over 15 innings. Basing roster moves based on that kind of probability is worse then batting Lind in the cleanup spot vs RH.

    • Please show me the evidence to back up such an obvious point.

      • “After all, no other team in baseball uses their 25th man as little as the Blue Jays use Vizquel. And in the race for first place in the American League East, a race that is traditionally very close, every win matters and every player should be one that can contribute to a win in ways that can be counted and measured.”

        Usage of the 25th man is dependent on the value provided by the 25th man. Use a metric like WAR and provide real evidence that the Jays are getting significantly less value from their 25th man then other teams instead of using plate appearances.

        If there was an injury, or demotion on the current roster the replacement would not vault Vizquel from his position of 25th man. Thus my point that a coach that has longer term impact over a group of developing players is more likely to influence runs scored/prevented then the 25th man on a roster . Asking me to provide facts on that is hypocritical since you are using plate appearances as your justification for this article.

  23. having omar on the bench hasn’t actually helped junel’s hitting has it? and every player needs a day off. you have to work your bench players in and they have to be productive. but why are we surprised. every year alex assembled a motley crew of misfits on the bench. last year it was wise, rivera and teahan, jmac. it appears alex has no understanding of the value of a bench.

  24. Not even gonna waste my time reading this. Omar is a future hall of famer. His glove is still golden. Who cares if he nevers plays. I would rather Lawrie, Yunny, and Johnson play every day anyways. So what if he’s overpaid? Are you kidding me?

  25. I have a feeling that it was a slow news day — why else are we talking about a teams last bench player? Hey is that Jayson Nix on the yankee’s roster? But yes, I would much rather have Eliot Johnson of the rays instead of Vizquel in the last spot — or Plouffe of the twins….or Inge….

    How much does a bench coach make?

    I look forward to tomorrow’s post which I can only assume will be about the blue used in the on-deck circle not being the proper tint or hue.

    That or I would like to see a post explaining how 30 games into the season is somehow a smaller sample size than one game the Orioles played against a college team

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