“El Niño” Linares: The PHENOMENON that he was and his IMPRESSIVE numbers in National Series

By Robiel Vega /@ robielcuba87

It is almost impossible to summarize in some paragraphs the tremendous career of a player who marked an era in our National Series and the Cuba team, that is why this time I will only refer to his career in domestic tournaments, leaving his performance in the selection of the 4 letters for another occasion.

Without much ado I begin by telling you that Omar Linares Left On October 23, 1967, in the Pinar del Río town of San Juan y Martínez, in a family where his father, Fidel Linares, had been one of the players who participated in the first National Series, even managing to make the odd team Cuba, for example, the Pan American Games of Sao Paolo 1963.

He made his debut in the National Series in the XXII National Series (1982-1983) with the Forestales team, at that time the second cast of the Pinar del Río province, performing as an infielder and outfielder, without showing great results.

A year later began a period of nine seasons, in which he wore the Vegueros flannel, always under the orders of Jorge Fuentes and with which he won three titles (1985, 1987 and 1988). In that first season, 1983-1984, he averaged 316, the product of 86 hits in 272 at-bats. This would be the preamble to what was to come.

For the following season, Omar Linares would win everything, the title of Cuba, the MVP of the National Series and he would become the youngest batting champion in history at just 18 years old, in addition to doing so surpassing the 400 barrier, the first time it was achieved in an event of this type, previously only Héctor Olivera (father) and Agustín Arias had achieved it in Selective Series.

“El Niño” as he was already known, hit 409 (264-108), in a season of 75 games, also taking the lead in runs scored with 65 and triples with 9. The young infielder from Pinar del Río would also connect 19 doubles and 9 home runs, drove in 39 runs and received 46 walks.

In the following season he would repeat the feat and again he would be a batting champion over 400, this time with an average of 426 (148-63) in a 48-game format. Omar hit 19 extra-base hits (8-3-8), with 36 runs scored, 33 RBIs and 32 walks; his slugging was 682.

For his fifth series his performance dropped a bit, coming out of the top ten of the main hitters, but even so, he took the lead in runs scored with 40, equaled with the “Captain of Captains” Antonio Pacheco.

Their average totals in the first five seasons, considering National Series and Selectivas, they were 359 and 321 respectively. Combined with both tournaments, he averaged .343 (564 hits in 1,646 times at bat), also hitting 73 homers and driving in 226 runs.

For his sixth season, he again averaged more than 400, reaching 431 (116-50), third of the hitters in the Western Zone and also including both zones, since the leader of the West was Luis Ulacia with 427. Linares did not achieve leads. singles, but he did leave excellent numbers, scoring 42 runs, hitting 20 extra-base hits (8-3-9) for a 784 slugging.

Already in 1989, he returned to the top ten of the hitters in his area, occupying the sixth place with 373 (185-69), again leading the scorers with 53 and connecting, for the first time in his career, more than 10 home runs, reaching 19, one of the biggest productions of his career, considering that it was in 48 challenges.

The 90s would start in style for Omar, he regained the batting crown and hit over 400 again, this time taking his personal best to 442 (172-76), once again leading the scorers with 52 and also received more tickets than anyone with 40.

Linares completed his tremendous performance with 24 extra-base hits, 15 of them home runs, he drove in 43 and only took 14 strikeouts. In the Selective of that year he was the maximum accumulator of hits with 90. Precisely his unstoppable 1 000 came that year; and it was connected to José Luís Alemán from Santiago.

In 91 he was second of the batters with 369 (157-58), only surpassed by his teammate Lázaro Madera with 400, in addition to commanding the intentional walks with 7. In the Selective he also shone, achieving the tournament title and being the top scorer with 66 and the one that received the most tickets with 68, this maraca that constituted an absolute record for this type of events now extinct in our baseball.

Until that moment and after 9 seasons, Linares already showed numbers to be among the greats, with an average of 366 (3173-1161), OBP of 463, slugging of 626, product of 158 doubles, 32 triples and 201 home runs, 570 RBIs and OPS of 1089 and he was barely 24 years old.

1992 was the best year at the national level in his entire career, achieving a historic doubloon, taking the batting crown in both the National Series and the Selective. In the first one he averaged 386 (140-54), being the player who received the most bases with 51 and intentional walks with 8.

For the selective tournament, he accomplished something historic and unrepeatable, becoming the only batter in the history of those events to achieve the triple batting crown. Linares led the batters with 398 (216-86), the homers with 23 and the RBIs with 58. The Pinar del Rio also took the lead in runs with 65, walks with 56 and intentional bases with 14.

The following year he achieved his fifth and last National Series batting title (sixth counting that of the Selective) and took his personal best to 446 and also equaled the record for the highest average for a National Series tournament, dating from 1988, belonging to Pedro Luis Rodríguez, although the native of Pinar del Río achieved it 11 times at bat less.

In his last 10 years of career he maintained outstanding performances, especially in the 1996 season, in which he would hit for the last time in his career for 400 and would hit, for the only time in a National Series, 20 home runs. In the II Revolution Cup, he made the manhood of taking four balls out of the park on April 8, 1997, in a clash between Pinar del Río and Villa Clara, to tie the mark previously imposed by Leonel Moa from Camagüey and Alberto Díaz from Matanzas.

In the years 1997 and 1998 he won the crown with the Pinar del Río team, first under the baton of Jorge Fuentes and then Alfonso Urquiola, already for those years and until his retirement in 2002, his participation in the different series would be reduced due to to different injuries, despite the lack of continuity, he achieved good averages in the years 1998, 2001 and 2002, being the Series 40 the one with the best numbers, occupying the fourth place among batters with 390 and reaching a brutal OBP of 562, product of 78 tickets.

Linares was a natural “five tools”, combining speed and power like no one else. One of the only two 200-200 players in the National Series (200 or more homers and 200 or more stolen bases), reaching 404 homers and 246 scams, although it should be noted that 216 of them achieved them in his first 11 seasons. From 1994 onwards he never exceeded 5 steals in a season.

The Serpentineros, once Casanova retired, preferred to get rid of Linares by giving him first base; This is why it led the transfers received in 1990 (40), 1992 (51), 1993 (66), 1994 (54), 1995 (64), 1996 (70) and 2000 (69). Such an outstanding number of tickets made him take 1,327 in total, second, at the time of his retirement, behind Antonio Muñoz (1551). At this time it occupies the fourth place, since Frederich Cepeda, with 1834 and Enrique Díaz, with 1441, occupy places 1 and 3 respectively.

A fact that perfectly portrays how much Linares pitchers took care of themselves is reflected in the two times he received five walks in a game: on April 25, 1991 against Mineros and on January 31, 1996 against Matanzas.

No less impressive were his intentional walks leads: 1986 (8), 1990 (6), 1991 (7), 1992 (8), 1993 (16), 1994 (22), 2000 (16) and 2001 (17). ). Totaling 235, also fourth of all time, surpassed by Cepeda (309), Antonio Muñoz (273) and Alexander Mayeta (251).

Omar “El Grande”, as many also know him, is, to this day, the hitter with the highest average in National Series with 368 (5,952-2195); He also leads in OBP with 487, second in runs (1,547), fourth in home runs (404), second in total bases (3842), second in slugging (644), leader in OPS (1,131), eighth in RBI, 1,221 , second in produced (2364) and tenth in stolen bases (246).

All this trajectory, added to his impressive international record, to which we will refer in another work, earned him to be part of the re-founded Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, as of December 2014, with the highest vote among the players of the post-1959 era.

For many, Omar is the best Cuban player of all time, for others, the choice is not so clear; But what is undeniable is that his quality would have made him succeed in any baseball in the world, including MLB, but he never did. Even so, he has enough merits to be among the best in history, no matter the league and when it comes to the National Series, no one even comes close to the comprehensiveness and quality of his numbers. That’s all for today, we’ll see you next time.

We would like to give thanks to the writer of this short article for this amazing material

“El Niño” Linares: The PHENOMENON that he was and his IMPRESSIVE numbers in National Series