If This Is It…..

Today we appreciate the career of an underrated AL Central outfielder through the lens of Mr. Huey Lewis.

After game one of the ALCS, the Detroit Tigers announced that Magglio Ordonez would be shut down for the rest of the postseason due to a broken right ankle – his second ankle ailment of the campaign. According to the Detroit Free Press, he was considering hanging his spikes up “three or four months ago” because his “ankle wasn’t responding” to treatment and his play wasn’t where he wanted it to be. Statistically, this season was a new low for Ordonez, as he hit .255/.303/.331 with only five round-trippers and an uncharacteristic 41/23 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Not only was the ankle injury sustained in the ALDS Ordonez’ second of the season, Tigers trainer Kevin Rand noted that this fracture was of a completely different nature than the first (horizontal rather than the initial vertical), which appears likely to require surgery and extensive rehabilitation.

In light of these reports, it seems apt to assess Ordonez in terms of what his legacy will be once he officially retires. After all, even if he opts to return, there’s no guarantee he’ll bolster his Hall of Fame case, considering he’ll be 38-years-old on opening day in 2012, and has pretty much experienced a steady decline physically and output-wise since his scintillating .363/.434/.595 season in 2007. With a .634 OPS this season, there’s also no guarantee to be a market for Magglio beyond maybe occasional DH/PH duties.

With a tip of the hat to Aaron Gleeman of NBC’s Hardball Talk, we find a list of the top active right-handed hitters – with more than 5000 plate appearances – OPS-wise. This list contains stalwarts such as Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez*, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, and Vladimir Guerrero. Sixth on the list is Ordonez, who’s .871 OPS has only garnered him one top-10 MVP finish and three Silver Slugger awards, and really hasn’t made him the household name his career marks probably has deserved. That’s pretty incredible company to be in, especially considering Ordonez is clearly in his decline phase, while Pujols and Cabrera haven’t shown a hint of slowdown, and Rodriguez is still producing relatively well. For what it’s worth, Ordonez’ OPS has tumbled 20 points since he entered his ‘decline phase’, which I’d consider the past three seasons.

An additional perusal of Ordonez’ credentials finds that he’s somewhere among the 200 or so best hitters of all time. His wOBA and wRC+ marks each rank in the top 175 among hitters with 5000-plus plate appearances, and he’s top 150 or better in batting average, slugging, OPS, RBI, extra base hits. Among active players, Ordonez is 11th in batting average, 33rd in on-base percentage, 24th in slugging, 15th in hits, and is just six big flies short of 300 for his career.

So, other than playing in the relative anonymity of two American League Central clubs, why exactly is Ordonez not considered among the elite right-handed hitters of our time?

Well, it’s not too difficult to see how Ordonez flew under the radar. His career started in the McGwire-Sosa-Thomas era of right-handed hitters, passed through the Rodriguez-Ramirez-Guerrero era and ended in the Pujols-Cabrera-Braun era. In that sense, Ordonez was never quite measured up. Still, he’s among the handful of best right-handed sluggers we’ve seen in the last couple of decades or so, and I think he’ll garner more Hall of Fame attention that most might think – not that Cooperstown also-rans sleep better at night.

Still, injury riddled age-30 and 31 campaigns – coupled with a career of adventuresome outfield work – will probably cost him what was still a shaky shot at the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. Make no mistake; even with really good seasons in the two he largely missed, he’s still likely ticketed to the upper chamber in the Hall of Very Good. His comparables lists from BaseballReference.com would tend to agree, including names such as fellow HoVG members Dave Parker, Moises Alou, Paul O’Neill, and Fred Lynn appear, along with Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

Still, those injury plagued seasons came back-to-back on the heels of four straight campaigns which saw Ordonez post a .900-plus OPS with an average of 33 home runs, 42 doubles, and 118 runs batted in. If Ordonez continues that string through those two season, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say he’d warrant HOF consideration.

*Ramirez still technically active due to his brief 2011 stint with the Tampa Bay Rays.

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In addition to Rotographs, Warne is a Minnesota Twins beat reporter for 105 The Ticket's Cold Omaha website as well as a sportswriter for Sportradar U.S. in downtown Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com

42 Responses to “If This Is It…..”

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  1. steve-o says:

    underrated? only if you watch espn religiously or are under 22 years of age.

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  2. Anthony says:


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  3. JP says:

    Maybe Ordonez isn’t considered amongst the elite right handed hitters of our time because he ranks 6th in OPS amongst active right handed hitters with 5000+ plate appearances. Look, that’s really darn good, and he’s had an excellent career, but he’s not in the same class as those other hitters you listed.

    Apart from his one truly outstanding 2007 season, he’s never really been a dominant hitter like those other guys you mention. Other than 2007, Magglio’s wRC+ tops out in the 140s, and he only made it that high 3 times. Otherwise, he was putting up lots of 110-120 numbers.

    For his career, he has a wRC+ of 126. It’s not really fair to compare that to Pujols (167) or Cabrera (146), since they haven’t hit their decline phases yet. But Manny and A-Rod clock in at 152 and 148 respectively (ARod’s number has plenty of room to fall though in coming seasons).

    Again, darn good stuff, but just not what jumps to mind when you think “elite.” Ordonez has had neither the peak dominant seasons, nor the sustained excellence of any of those other right handed hitters. At his 3 year peak, from 2001-03, he hit like those other guys would in an average year.

    As for Hall of Fame credentials, no way. Again, he only had one season where he was a legit MVP candidate. For his career, he has just shy of 40 WAR. Even if he comes back, he’s not going to boost that number very much. That would put him a good 15-20 WAR behind guys like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, who were already questionable Hall of Fame picks.

    Very nice career, but not an elite player of his era, and not a hall of famer. It’s not even that close.

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    • Excellent comment. To be fair, this post was to simply shine light on how good he’s been with little to no fanfare. You basically nailed why he won’t be a Hall of Fame candidate, and why he’s not incredibly well-known.

      Still, I just thought it was apt since a very good player quite possibly going to be retiring here.

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  4. Matt says:

    He was accused of ‘roids in conseco’s book….

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    • I’m 50/50 on what Canseco said in his book. On one hand, he’s been extraordinarily good about the Rangers guys, but on the other hand, he did fabricate plenty of the stuff in the book as well. After all, wasn’t it proven that his interaction with Boone never occurred? Didn’t he also mention that he pinch hit in a World Series game that never occurred?

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  5. ms says:

    Magglio is the Curt Hennig of RH hitters.

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  6. JG says:

    Thanks for the memories, Maggs. That walkoff in the 06 ALCS is something no Tiger fan will ever forget.

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    • Cloud Computer says:

      my favorite baseball memory

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    • Jeff says:

      I was at my cottage in norther Michigan at the time listening to the game on the radio since we didnt get Fox.. My dad, brother in law and I were jumping up and down screaming when it happened… best Tigers memory…

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  7. Ben says:

    How is The Big Tilde sixth on the active player OPS list? Do somehow Todd Helton, Jim Thome, Lance Berkman, Chipper Jones, Jason Giambi, and David Ortiz not count? I’m pretty sure all those guys have well over 5000 PA’s. Baseball reference has Ordonez 27th on the active player list with guys over 3000 PA’s. Maybe not all of them have 5000 PA’s, but he is certainly not sixth.

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    • JG says:

      It says in the article that it’s among righties, amigo.

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      • Ben says:

        Sorry, I missed that.

        But I guess what I am saying is that it seems like a slightly contrived argument to place Ordonez high on a list. But then again, I think JP already said that and better than I can.

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  8. Purple_Haze says:

    I’m sort of wondering why Fangraphs chose to have four separate articles related to the ALCS today and none related to the NLCS. No accusations of favoritism or anything but the Brewers and Cardinals also played.

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  9. Matt says:

    I could’ve sworn only the AL played today which would make the fact that they are writing about the AL make sense. On a side note, I find it interesting that the Brewers series is getting more prime time games then the ALCS. Wonder if it has to do with who the commish is…

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  10. Dean Travers says:

    I thought this would be about Jorge Posada

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  11. Dan says:

    … please let me know ;)

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  12. G says:

    maggs was a very good player who flew under the national radar. he delivered a lot of clutch hits and always played hard. he is one of the better slow players of his generation.

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  13. This is listed under popular stories on the main page. There’s false advertising, and then there’s that.

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  14. Mac says:

    A couple of other under the radar thoughts:

    In Chicago, Ordonez was second fiddle to Frank Thomas, and also had to share spotlight time with Paul Konerko, the man who is the heart of the current White Sox roster.

    Detroit was maybe “Miggy’s team” in ’06 and ’07, but he was again overshadowed by the exciting play of Granderson and the emergence of Cabrera. A vast majority of a career spent not being the top guy in a lineup hurts his legacy.

    He’s also made only three trips to the postseason. A 3 game exit with White Sox in ’00, the amazing ’06 run, and then this year’s campaign. Had very few chances to be a standout player in both the regular season and the playoffs.

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    • bada bing says:

      Miggy joined the Tigers in ’08. You do understand that ‘Miggy’ is a nickname for Miguel Cabrera, and ‘Mags’ is the nickname for Magglio Ordonez, right?

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