Friday, July 10, 2009

The Curious Case of Magglio Ordonez

I feel like I've seen this before, this Magglio Ordonez stuff.

The usual #3 hitter in the Tigers order, the star corner outfielder, a man of several moments that will live on forever to Detroit fans, my favorite player...suddenly unable to perform at the age of 35. Wait a minute. I have. Does the name Bobby Higginson ring a bell?

Calm down. Magglio Ordonez over his career was a much better hitter than my boy, Bobby, ever was. I admit that. But I think that a lot of newer fans don't realize exactly who Bobby was and what he meant to Tiger fans for a long time...much like Magglio does to people today.

Higginson never played on a winning team during his entire career. The Tigers were a dreadful organization during his time there in which Bobby had little to no support in the lineup. But he still put up decent numbers over the years, highlighted by the 2000 season when he became the 19th person in MLB history to hit .300 with at least 100 runs scored, 30 homers, 44 doubles, 100 RBIs, and 15 steals in the same year. Higginson would twice lead the majors in outfield assists, and is one of eight Tigers since 1965 to twice be named Tiger of the Year by the Detroit Chapter of the BBWAA. ('97 & '00)

The next couple of years, his power numbers went down, but he would still hit for average. After that at age 33, he would be hurt quite a bit for the next two seasons and his numbers dropped further. And at age 35, Higginson would have to retire due to injury and the lack of ability he once possessed. By this time, Bobby had quite the contract due to his past numbers and couldn't live up to it drawing the ire of many of the Tigers "faithful". I know...I almost got into a fight with one particularly drunk one hassling me over my Higginson jersey one day at the Copa. Sadly for Bobby, right after his retirement, the Tigers would go on to acquire big name free agents and become a winner again. One of those guys they went out and got was Magglio Ordonez.

We all know Magglio's story. In 2006, he would lead the Tigers to the World Series with one swing of the bat against Huston Street (and me freaking out in the third row). He put together one of the greatest seasons of all time by a Tiger in 2007 hitting .363 with 28 dingers and 139 RBIs. '08 was solid for The Tilde once again before hitting this season-long funk here in 2009. At this point, seemingly out of nowhere, he has become a singles hitting platoon player, splitting time with Clete Thomas, and people are wondering if he will soon be released to avoid his $18 million option to kick in based on plate appearances this season. People are booing the man who at 35 seems unable to recapture the magic anymore.

This stuff happens, I guess. Red Sox fans are going through this with David Ortiz, who at age 33(?) has lost his mojo all of the sudden after being a hero to them for years. Is it age? Is it injuries? Gulp...is it PED's?

Who knows? Despite being in first place, it's a sad day in Tiger Town when Magglio Ordonez is reduced to being the unwanted, overpaid, washed up guy in the clubhouse...just like Bobby Higginson was at the same age. I can only hope that if this really is the end of Magglio's road, that he is remembered as the great player he was, and not the mediocre one he has sadly become.

1 comment:

John Parent said...

I think it's an excellent comparason. Higginson was an enormously popular player, he was one of the few reasons to go to the park when he was there, then it all just vanished.

As you said, Higgy didn't have the career Maggs has had, but the fall from grace is eerily similar.