When Magglio Ordoñez signed with the Detroit Tigers during the winter of 2004, the skeptics shook their heads and wondered what the Tigers were thinking. Ordoñez was coming off a devastating knee injury and experimental surgery, and no one knew how he would respond to the treatment. Understandably, the rival Chicago White Sox did not want to take any risks with Ordoñez or his injured knee, and were willing to let their star slugger walk. At the time, the signing of Ordoñez was seen as a somewhat desperate move by a once-formidable team struggling to rebuild its legacy and reputation by taking on another team’s discarded junk.
The 2005 season was pretty much a wash for Ordoñez and the Tigers, as he missed significant time due to a sports hernia. Ordoñez had only 46 at bats total in the first half of the 2005 season. Predictably, the Tigers struggled and limped to the finish line, unable to improve on their 2004 season.
2006 was different though. Ordoñez was finally healthy, and so were the Tigers. He showed glimpses of his younger self, belting 24 homeruns and driving in 104. The Tigers were the best team in baseball for much of the season and made the playoffs that year, despite a six-game losing streak to end the season.
We all know what happened next.
Ordoñez helped give the Tigers legitimacy after nearly a decade and a half of embarrassment and failure. His walk-off homerun in Game Four of the ALCS might have done more for the city of Detroit than any of us could have imagined. It gave us hope—if the Tigers can rise from the ashes, maybe the city of Detroit can, too—and lifted a team and its city.
You wouldn’t find much of an argument amongst Tigers fans these days if you said Ordoñez was washed up, or headed for retirement. He had a difficult, injury ridden season—two of them in a row, in fact—along with a 2009 season that was tough both professionally and personally. Ordoñez even contemplated retirement before discussing his options with his family and deciding against it. It seems like he made the right decision, as he was hitting .294 and improved his OPS by 87 points in the second half. (Granted, a .678 OPS is nothing to shake a stick at, but it is still a vast improvement over the .591 he put up in the first half on a balky ankle with absolutely no power.)
Unfortunately, his season—and maybe even his career—might be done. If this truly is the end of the line for Ordoñez in Detroit, thanks for everything. I wish you nothing but the best wherever you end up, whether it’s retirement or another organization.
Thank you, Maggs.
We’ll always have 2006.
(Disclaimer: A lot of this is recounted from memory (minus the stats) so I might be off on some of my recollections. Apologies.)