Thanks, Omar.

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Today, our favorite San Francisco Giant turns 40.

Now, as some of you may know, we hold a certain fondness for shortstops here at Say Hey. It’s the most difficult position on the field, and we were huge fans of Omar back when he was a member of those great Indians teams of the mid-90s. ESPN’s John Shea reminds us about that great era of shortstops:

Early in Vizquel’s career, he was among an elite group of American League shortstops including Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada. The only guy lacking offensive punch was Vizquel, which was why he might have been overlooked at times.

Well, A-Rod is now a third baseman. Garciaparra is now a first baseman. And while Tejada committed a career-low 19 errors last season and Jeter was the AL’s Gold Glove winner with 15, Vizquel had four.

Since coming to the Giants two years ago, Omar has won two Gold Gloves (giving him 11 for his career), and last year, he was easily the team’s best player, hitting .295 with a career-high 10 triples. But Omar’s contributions go beyond stats; he was the recipient of the Willie Mac Award, given to the team’s most inspirational player.

Around these parts, we’d argue that Omar might be the best shortstop in the history of the game. Outrageous? He’s clearly a better offensive player than Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio. He doesn’t have Jeter’s rings or Cal Ripken’s power, but no one (not even Smith) approaches his fielding stats–he has the highest fielding percentage for a shortstop in history. And he’s done it for 18 years and counting.

Since arriving in the Bay two years ago, Omar has been the best player on the Giants, and we can’t think of anyone else we would rather have patrolling the middle infield. He’s been a lone bright spot on a team that often appears slow and tired. He always plays hard, with an unmistakable flair and an undeniable love for the game. He’s an artist at shortstop. He’s a joy to watch and we are so grateful to have been in the presence of true greatness.

Thanks, Omar.

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