Grand Cards: Minus Maggs

Monday, August 23, 2010

Minus Maggs

The weekend brought with it some sour news. From a practical standpoint it is, in reality, inconsequential, but emotionally there was some weight here. Take it away Dr. Leyland:
"We are all at the mercy on how it is healing," Leyland said. "This year is pretty much done for him, unfortunately for him and unfortunately for us. I think that is pretty much it for him. I think. But I said Brandon Inge would be out six weeks and he came back."

Leyland said the crack was more severe than thought and is at a vertical angle rather than horizontal.
Leyland, of course, doesn't know why a vertically angled crack is more difficult to heal than a horizontal crack. It is not more severe than he thought, it was more severe than the doctors thought. It was more severe than he was told. I'm going to go ahead and blame the writer on this one, instead of continuing to picture Leyland holding up a set of X-rays against the light, smoke billowing around the florescent lighting of the windowless room. "Damn." He grumbles, taking exhaling slowly and the smoke shrouds his face. "This is worse than I thought."

Funny as that may be.

Anyway, that's from the Detroit News. Bless You Boys follows up with a candidate for understatement of the year:
It would be quite sad if the Tiger who gave us the best highlight in two decades has officially played his last game for the D.

"Quite Sad?" I have to believe that it would be more tragic than that. "Major Disappointment" is more appropriate than "quite sad" and even "tragic" almost rings true without being hyperbolic. Almost.

I think that it is easy to forget how important Maggs has been to this club, and its easy to see why. When he arrived in 2005 he wasn't the savior. That was Pudge, who braved (and was handsomely rewarded) to join the Tigers after the 2003 season. Ordonez was a sheep. An also-ran. An add-on.
2005 Topps Prestige Magglio Ordonez

The Tigers followed the pattern that they set forth with Pudge. At the time, Maggs was damaged goods, coming off experimental European knee surgery, there were serious doubts whether he'd be able to play again, much less hit at a professional level.

And in fact, 2005 was a struggle for Magglio. He strained his abdomen at the start of the season, and required hernia surgery, keeping him out until July. He came back strong upon his return, but with no fewer question marks than he had coming into the season.

By the start of 2006, he was just another short-haired,
2006 Topps Finest Magglio Ordonez

Affable,
2006 Topps Co-Signers Magglio Ordonez

"Professional Hitter" on a team, that seemed full of them. His 24 home run, 104 RBI season helped drive the Tigers to a winning record for the first time in 13 years, and the playoffs for the first time in 19 years.

And it was Magglio, who with one swing of the bat, became an icon.
2006 Topps Turkey Red Magglio Ordonez
To this day, I'm bothered that a baseball card was never made that depicted Magglio Ordonez hitting a walk-off home run to send the Tigers to the World Series for the first time in 22 years. It was the defining moment of a season, and of a generation--mine--that had never really seen what successful Tigers baseball was.

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Flash forward to 2007--Ordonez, won the batting title by hitting .363. He had 54 doubles. 139 RBI! And, deservingly, he was given his second consecutive All-Star spot, and finished 2nd in the MVP voting that year. It was his peak as a Tiger, no doubt. And with long locks now flowing, his Gideon-like status elevated him to a new level, to shiny baseball cards that only the true stars get:
2008 SPx Magglio Ordonez

And he lived up to that status in 2008, with another .300+ year, and another 100+ RBIs. Did you know that he was the first Tiger to have three consecutive 100 RBI seasons since Cecil Fielder did so from 1991-1994? Did you?


But the wheels fell off in 2009.
2009 UD Spectrum Magglio Ordonez

His numbers took a dive, along with his bat speed and concentration. It was later revealed that his wife had been battling rather serious cancer, he was booed by his fellow Venezuelans at the WBC for his political views. He was benched by Leyland for poor performance. Then unbenched. The benched and unbenched again. Ultimately, he got so hot in the second half of the season that he helped carry the team into game 163, and saw his big, fat contract option for 2010 vest. There were groans. Overpaid and over-the-hill.

Yet here we are in the exact opposite position one year later, and its seems that everybody has finally realized what we should have seen all along. The Tigers are much, much worse without Magglio Ordonez. Sure, he's not a $15M player any more, and in a sense, his injury spared the Tigers from having to overpay for him in 2011. But just look what his loss has meant this season. The team went into freefall, Miguel Cabrera's torrid place slowed remarkably, and an already tenuous lineup crumbled. Overpaid or not Ordonez was the keystone, and I'm not sure you can put a price on that.

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Has Magglio Ordonez played his last game as a Tiger? That's the speculation. But I tend to agree with Kurt from BYB that the Tigers are going to try and bring him back. One option is to pick up his $15M option for 2011. That seems a bit silly, and like punching a gift horse in the mouth. But you have to believe that the Tigers realize exactly how valuable Maggs is to the franchise. Not has been--this would be no charity signing--but still is to the team.

You can make the same argument for Brandon Inge, or even Johnny Damon, both of whom are in the throws of trade speculation. And when you think about it, you realize that there is really no reason that the Tigers shouldn't bring any one of them back. There is no heir apparent, no rising star that they're holding back. The only option would be to replace in free agency, which is effectively what the Tigers could do with Ordonez. Decline the option and re-sign him at a fair rate.

Would he go for it? I'm not sure. Would the Tigers offer? I don't know. But it would be the right thing to do, because it would be the best thing for the team. Challenge time: who has been the best player on the Tigers since their 2003 season? Miguel Cabrera comes to mind, because he is the most talented and has had incredible individual season. But Ordonez's numbers are better over his Tigers career. He has carried this team, more than anybody else in that span. Without Ordonez, the Tigers don't make the playoffs. They don't content year-in and year-out. Dollars over donuts says they don't have Miguel Cabrera right now. That trade would never have been made.

So think about the sad reality that Magglio Ordonez may have played his last game as a Detroit Tiger, and you may wonder, as I do, how in the hell this team is going to get along without him.

2 comments:

  1. That Magglio HR in 2006 is as great a moment as I've had in my 40+ years watching the Tigers.

    I hope Magglio is back next year in some capacity.

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  2. Come on now, you're making me get all misty eyed. We need Magglio back. I understand if the Tigers decline to pick up his option, but I sure hope they offer him a fair contract for next year.

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