Omar Vizquel’s departure from White Sox turbulent under the surface

When the White Sox dismissed Omar Vizquel shortly after completing his second season as a manager in the White Sox system, I figured it might’ve been the rare mutual parting of ways. We made fun of that phrase when the Sox used it to describe their firing of Rick Renteria, but it made some sense with lower stakes. The aggressive, old-school form of baseball that Vizquel implemented to fantastic results in Winston-Salem in 2018 produced rapidly diminishing returns for Birmingham a year later. Numerous prospects stalled, and the baserunning numbers were atrocious.

With the the White Sox intent on advancing Justin Jirschele to Double-A, and with Vizquel’s further aspirations lacking a path to Chicago, it seemed like it was in the interest of both parties to move on, and so I didn’t think much of Chris Getz’s description of the decision.

“We felt that it was best for both sides to make a change,” White Sox director of player development Chris Getz told MLB.com Wednesday, calling the parting an amicable one.

“Listen, Omar, ultra-talented player, very good instructor, created a good environment for our players,” Getz continued. “We just felt with where things are at, our player development system, that it was time to go separate ways. But not only for himself, but for the organization as well and we wish Omar well. He was a positive influence while he was here.”

It’s worth revisiting the White Sox’s rationale now, because buried in an explosive report into domestic abuse allegations against Vizquel by The Athletic is a different reason for the firing.

Omar and Blanca moved to Birmingham, Alabama, when Vizquel was named manager of the Double-A Barons for the 2019 season. His tenure with that White Sox farm team, however, lasted only one season.

Toward the end of the season, the organization learned of an alleged incident involving Vizquel and a male clubhouse worker. The team suspended Vizquel with pay while probing the incident then terminated him in mid-September, after the season ended. 

When reached by The Athletic, the clubhouse worker, who is no longer with the team, said: “I have to stay silent about this.”

Vizquel, when asked about the situation, said: “I can’t really say anything about that because it really — nothing happened.”

That’s a smaller episode in a much larger, messier story about Vizquel. His wife fled from Vizquel in October, alleging through her Instagram account and Venezuelan media that Vizquel abused her for years. I’d seen her claims surface in my Twitter feed from Latin American reporters, but without knowledge of Latin American news outlets nor much faith in Google Translate for such a sensitive subject, I wanted to see whether the story would merit further examination from media sources better equipped to parse and investigate.

The Athletic did just that. In a statement after the story went live, Vizquel denied the allegations and regarded them as a smear campaign during a tumultuous divorce, although incidents that required police response in 2011 and 2016, as well as descriptions from neighbors in Washington, are working against him.

Regarding the White Sox’s slice of the story, the team didn’t produce a response for The Athletic.

The White Sox declined to answer questions about the incident, Vizquel’s exit or any response by the organization to what occurred. The team also would not disclose whether it was aware of the incidents in 2011 and 2016 when he was hired to manage the Barons. 

This response — or lack thereof — is a little concerning. I wouldn’t blame team officials for declining to weigh in during divorce proceedings, especially if the club thought it did its part to distance themselves from toxicity by firing him before his contract lapsed. But between the clubhouse worker saying “I have to stay silent about this” and the club not having an answer for whether they were aware of Vizquel’s 2016 arrest, it’s harder to connect dots to create a thoroughly defensible conclusion.

The overall story isn’t going to go away, partially because Major League Baseball is investigating the incidents. Vizquel isn’t an employee of an MLB team, but the league could impose disciplinary actions in future roles.

There’s also the matter of Hall of Fame voting. Vizquel is on the ballot for the fourth time, climbing to 52.6 percent his last time out. He’s currently running at 51.2 percent in the early ballot returns tracked by Ryan Thibodaux, and the results of the voting will be announced by the BBWAA on Jan. 26. Vizquel stood a chance of receiving the second-highest share of the votes before all this broke, so his support will be examined no matter which direction it moves, with inquiries about the investigation and divorce proceedings likely to follow. They may be separate topics, but Vizquel is one of the people connecting the two.

Additionally, a representative of Vizquel reached out to The Athletic to provide “a brief presentation with some of the background on the allegations against Mr. Vizquel.” That 11-page PDF document is titled “The facts on the smear campaign against Omar Vizquel.” It includes bullet points that note, among other things, that “Vizquel was accused of fourth-degree assault, the least serious level.” The “conclusions” section of the presentation highlights that Vizquel is a finalist for the Hall of Fame. 

(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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craigws

The White Sox sure do love to hire guys that tout their Hall of Fame credentials in response to awfulness.

As Cirensica

“Almost a Hall of Fame Baseball Person” t-shirts in the future.

joewho112

“I assault at the least serious level”

David

They also fired him.

theSKOT

Silence from the White Sox and the clubhouse worker is entirely expected. Especially when there are bodies to be hidden, “mutually parted ways” almost always involves a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

joewho112

They’d have to be giving him something to make him sign it

karkovice squad

There are at least decent odds the org itself isn’t bound by an NDA just Vizquel and the clubhouse employee depending on how the process played out. The Sox’ silence could just be voluntary out of not wanting to create more liability or making the press coverage worse.

As Cirensica

At this point we are speculating, but one thing is sure, if the employee stated “…I have to stay silent about this…” then either 1) he is guilty of something or 2) he signed a NDA (hence, he received some compensation for it from the White Sox or Vizquel himself). Either way is nasty and everything indicates 2) happened. The White Sox would be very interested this does not see public light.

mikeyb

Or 3, he doesn’t want to get blackballed from the industry.

theSKOT

There didn’t even need to be a suit. If the White Sox/Barons were concerned with it looking poorly on them, they might have paid clubhouse worker some amount of money to sign the NDA. And, I’m assuming that Omar would gladly sign one to induce the White Sox/Barrons/Clubhouse worker to sign one.

Dingo_Sox

At least the 2011 incident was when he was off of team payroll, but a bit more troubling is that it was a month before he signed with the Blue Jays. No matter how its sliced the timeline for hiring is still not very good and a very troubling track record.

ForsterFTOG

Daryl Boston is appalled.

Eagle Bones

Can someone refresh me on Boston’s sordid past? I recall hearing about this, but can’t recall the specifics. I’d like to remind myself how much I should be outraged every time I see his name or see him on screen during a game.

Oddvark

If you want to read a lot about the Mets and the backstory (and more):

https://slate.com/culture/2020/01/mets-rape-accusation-spring-training-1991.html

Eagle Bones

Just finally finished reading this. Thanks for posting. Just awful.

knoxfire30

Try to remain a facts first and let the legal system play out person when it comes to matters like this, but a pretty detailed history here, and with some outsiders chiming in its hard not to see this for what it is, that Vizquel is a real bad guy.

MLB burning hot stove update got a few hundred free agents available, 42 of the top 50 or so depending on what rankings you use, and all of 56 days til pitchers and catchers report….keep up the good work MLB no one knows how to drum up fan interest like you guys!

dwjm3

I haven’t even seen a serious suitor mentioned for Bauer. It is amazing how slow some of these markets are developing.

knoxfire30

The NFL, NBA, NHL have feeding frenzies with teams desperate to pay top tier free agents the MLB has almost the opposite effect where teams are scared to death to bid on top tier talent and most avoid it completely.

David

The risk of career-diminishing injury for pitchers is much higher.

MarketMaker

nobody builds a culture quite like reinsdorf.

metasox

Doesn’t sound like this has anything to do with him. If anything, the Reinsdorf culture is much more about loyalty, and he is known for being pretty decent to the rank and file employees.

Last edited 1 year ago by metasox
joewho112

“Loyalty despite knowing about massive moral failing” is not a great culture

karkovice squad

They were informed about MLB’s investigation into the incidents. So Reinsdorf’s team has now twice re-hired former employees despite having known legal incidents at the time of the hire. Do we need to wait for a 3rd before calling this more than a coincidence?

GrinnellSteve

According to Auric Goldfinger, “Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action.”

metasox

I don’t know all the details of this incident. But if a private organization wants to hire someone and give them a chance, that is their business, as I see it. We live in a very punitive society as it is. I just don’t see myself as someone with the moral authority to sit in judgement of all that goes on.

Last edited 1 year ago by metasox
dongutteridge

Aside from this sad story, I don’t consider him a HOFer based on his playing career. So, I’m sure he won’t get in now.

Trooper Galactus

One thing that had made being a White Sox fan somewhat easier through years of failure is they generally stayed above board in off-the-field matters. It feels like in the last year they’ve been going out of their way to sully that reputation.