Top Tigers Countdown #24: Magglio Ordonez

Leon Halip

The Big Tilde is responsible for the biggest moment in the last 25 years of Tigers baseball and is now the #24 player on our countdown.

In terms of WAR, Magglio Ordonez was the 11th best player on the 2006 Tigers' roster. Prior to then, he had only appeared in 134 games in the previous two seasons. His 13.4 rWAR ranks 49th among position players in franchise history. Even his biggest moment was a foregone conclusion. The Tigers were tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning with a 3-0 series lead against the Oakland Athletics in the 2006 ALCS. Winning that series and the AL pennant was all but a certainty at that point.

So why is Magglio the #24 player on our countdown? Because punctuation matters.

Year PA HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
1997* 72 4 11 1 .319 .338 .580 .392 139 1.3
1998* 578 14 65 9 .282 .326 .415 .326 94 0.3
1999* 677 30 117 13 .301 .349 .510 .367 114 5.5
2000* 665 32 126 18 .315 .371 .546 .387 125 2.3
2001* 671 31 113 25 .305 .382 .533 .388 138 3.6
2002* 654 38 135 7 .320 .381 .597 .415 155 4.8
2003* 674 29 99 9 .317 .380 .546 .396 141 4.8
2004* 222 9 37 0 .292 .351 .485 .357 113 0.5
2005 343 8 46 0 .302 .359 .436 .346 113 1.1
2006 646 24 104 1 .298 .350 .477 .355 113 1.3
2007 679 28 139 4 .363 .434 .595 .438 169 8.0
2008 623 21 103 1 .317 .376 .494 .378 130 2.1
2009 518 9 50 3 .310 ,376 .428 .356 113 1.1
2010 365 12 59 1 .303 .378 .474 .375 133 2.5
2011 357 5 32 2 .255 .303 .331 .284 72 -1.2
Career 7744 294 1236 94 .309 .369 .502 .375 126 37.8

*Played for the Chicago White Sox from 1997 to 2004.

Magglio Ordonez was born on January 28th, 1974 in Caracas, Venezuela. He signed with the Chicago White Sox as an amateur free agent in 1991 and made his big league debut on August 29th, 1997 as a 23 year old. He quickly established himself as a premier corner outfielder, hitting .312/.372/.546 from 1999 to 2003. He hit 30 home runs and drove in 100 RBI in four of those five seasons, and finished with 29 home runs and 99 RBI in 2003. The next season would be Magglio's last in Chicago, as a meniscus repair turned into a season-ending injury when he was diagnosed with bone marrow edema.

During the 2005 offseason, Billfer (the godfather of pretty much every Tigers blog in existence) had this to say about the possibility of signing the Venezuelan slugger.

I’m not against signing Ordonez. However, given the fact that Boras' asking price...seems to be based on a level of production built in a very hitter friendly park it seems that he will be too expensive. It sounds like he is looking in the neighborhood of $50 million. Given Dombrowski’s reluctance to hurt the team with ridiculous contracts I’d be surprised if Dombrowski would sign him at that price. This is especially true because they won’t be able to insure him given his knee complications.

Ordonez and the Tigers agreed to a five year deal worth $75 million.

Things didn't get off to a great start for Maggs in Detroit. After just three games in a Tigers uniform, Ordonez underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia* and missed almost three months. However, he returned to hit .312/.367/.451 with 17 doubles and 29 walks to just 32 strikeouts over the last three months of the season. The Tigers lost 91 games that season, but Magglio's surgically repaired left knee wasn't a problem all year.

*The surgery was performed by Dr. William Meyers, a name that has become very familiar to Tigers fans this offseason.

In 2006, Magglio hit .298/.350/.477 with 24 home runs and 104 RBI. It was the first time he had hit under .300 in a full season since 1998, but the Tigers won 95 games and made the playoffs, ending a 19 year postseason drought. He struggled early on in the postseason, collecting just two hits in the first three games of the ALDS against the New York Yankees. He homered in the decisive Game 4, but then went just 2-for-13 in the first three games of the ALCS against the Oakland A's.

Magglio hit a game-tying solo home run in the sixth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS. That homer and a single by Carlos Guillen chased A's starter Dan Haren, but the bullpens would hold the score at 3-3 until the bottom of the ninth inning. After a pair of flyouts, singles by Craig Monroe and Placido Polanco brought Magglio to the plate against A's closer Huston Street. What followed can only be described as the biggest exclamation point in the history of Comerica Park.

Magglio knocked a pair of singles in five exhibition games shortly after that ALCS that totally didn't count, instead choosing to save his real encore for the 2007 season. Maggs hit a whopping .363/.434/.595 with 28 home runs, 139 RBI, and a league-leading 54 doubles, accumulating 8.0 WAR. He won his only career batting title and finished second in the MVP voting to Alex Rodriguez. The Tigers won 88 games, but finished a distant eight games behind the Cleveland Indians.

The Tigers failed to make the playoffs in each of the next three seasons, but Magglio was a rock in the middle of the lineup. He hit .311/.376/.466 with 42 home runs and 212 RBI in just under three seasons before breaking his ankle in a collision at home plate in July 2010. He returned for an injury-riddled 2011 season, but hit just .255/.303/.331 with five home runs in 357 plate appearances.

Magglio officially retired on June 3rd, 2012 in a ceremony at Comerica Park before a game against the Yankees. In his seven years with the Tigers, he hit .312/.373/.476. His 125 wRC+ is tied for 22nd in team history, while his 107 home runs with the Tigers rank 29th. His 8.0 fWAR in 2007 is tied for the fifth-best season in franchise history by someone other than Ty Cobb and is one of 12 eight-win seasons in team history.

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