By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Who’s the most underrated player in Montreal Expos history?
I’ve been asked this question several times over the years and my answer has consistently been Jose Vidro.
In my opinion, for a player that was the greatest second baseman in franchise history and one of the top two offensive players at his position in the National League (Jeff Kent was probably No. 1 at the time) for a six-season stretch from 1999 to 2004, he doesn’t get nearly enough praise.
After being selected in the sixth round of the 1992 MLB draft by the Expos out of Blanca Malaret High School in Sabana Grande, P.R., Vidro was signed by Expos scouts Fred Ferreira and Juan Loyola.
He rose slowly through the Expos’ minor league ranks before making his big league debut on June 8, 1997, but his breakthrough campaign wouldn’t come until two years later.
In 1999, the switch-hitting Vidro took over as the Expos’ starting second baseman and batted .304 with 45 doubles and 12 home runs in 140 games. That would be the first of five consecutive seasons in which he hit higher than .300.
During that five-season span from 1999 to 2003, he was selected to three All-Star Games, won a Silver Slugger Award and finished in the top three in the National League in doubles three times and in hits twice.
And those are just a few of his career highlights. Here are more:
- His .330 batting average in 2000 is the second highest by an Expos infielder in franchise history. First baseman Al Oliver hit .331 in 1982.
- His 51 doubles in 2000 are the second-most in a season in Expos/Washington Nationals’ franchise history. Mark Grudzielanek had 54 in 1997.
- His 200 hits in 2000 made him just one of four players in Expos’ history to record 200 hits in a season. The other three are Vladimir Guerrero, Oliver and Grudzielanek.
- His career .301 batting average is the third-best in the Expos/Nationals’ history, behind only Guerrero and Raines.
- He ranks third in Expos/Nationals’ history in doubles with 341, behind only Ryan Zimmerman (412) and Tim Wallach (360).
- He ranks sixth in Expos/Nationals’ history with 1,280 hits behind only Zimmerman, Wallach, Raines, Andre Dawson and Gary Carter.
And if these accomplishments aren’t enough to convince you that Vidro, who turns 47 today, is underrated, perhaps the following comparison will.
Roberto Alomar played five seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays from 1991 to 1995 and has been hailed as the best second baseman of his generation. Until his fall from grace, those five seasons with the Blue Jays were talked about with reverence by the team’s fans.
But how do those five seasons compare with Vidro’s five best seasons with the Expos?
This chart will show you:
|Player Name||Seasons||Games||Hits||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS||HR||RBI||Total Bases||WAR|
These statistics show that a strong argument could be made that Vidro was a better offensive player during his five best seasons with the Expos than Alomar was during his tenure with the Blue Jays. Alomar’s edge in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is largely a result of his stolen base totals (206) which dwarf those of Vidro (14).
Also, while I’m focused on comparing offensive numbers here, it’s interesting to note that despite Alomar winning a Gold Glove in each of his seasons with the Blue Jays, his dWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) is actually lower than Vidro’s in the five-season comparison.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not saying Vidro was a better player than Alomar. Alomar clearly had a longer and more productive career, I’m merely pointing out that during his best five seasons with the Expos, Vidro performed at Hall of Fame offensive levels and he doesn’t get enough credit for that.
Vidro moved to Washington with the Expos after the 2004 season and his production dipped significantly. After two seasons with the Nats, he played his final two big league campaigns with the Seattle Mariners in 2007 and 2008 before retiring at the age of 34.
Five Fun Facts about Jose Vidro:
- As noted earlier, Vidro was chosen in the sixth round of the 1992 MLB draft by the Expos. This somewhat made up for the club’s decision to draft left-hander B.J. Wallace in the first round, three spots ahead of a young shortstop named Derek Jeter.
- In 1996, while playing with the double-A Harrisburg Senators, Vidro and current Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo were teammates with Vladimir Guerrero and they served as an English interpreter for Guerrero.
- The Expos were not Vidro’s first Canadian stop in his professional career. He batted .323 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs in 73 games with the triple-A Ottawa Lynx in 1997. After getting a taste of the big leagues in 1997, Vidro returned to Ottawa in 1998 to bat .289 in 63 games.
- Vidro is the first player to DH for the Expos in a regular season game. He did so for the Expos in their first interleague game against the Baltimore Orioles on June 16, 1997. He batted seventh and went 0-for-4 in the Expos’ 6-4 win over the O’s at Camden Yards.
- Vidro was the Expos’ best pinch-hitter in 1997, going 9-for-20 (.450 batting average). Four of his hits were doubles.