Tigers

Jeff Riger: How Will You Remember Maggs?

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Magglio Ordonez  warms up to bat against the Kansas City Royals. (File Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Magglio Ordonez warms up to bat against the Kansas City Royals. (File Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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When Dave Dombrowski sat down with the media on Tuesday afternoon, he made no secret of the fact that Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen will not be returning to Detroit. Both are free agents and both are at the end of their careers and both were fantastic Tigers. Especially Ordonez, who will always be remembered for hitting that memorable walk off homer on an October Saturday night in 2006 against Houston Street and the A’s to send Detroit to the World Series.

Of course the very next season Ordonez won the batting title, hitting .363, and at that time it definitely looked like the Tigers investment back in 2005 to bring Maggs to Detroit could have been one of the best ever. Magglio’s exceptional hitting continued in 2008, where he batted .317 and was competing with Ben Wallace. Wallace had the ‘fro while Maggs sported the long flowing locks that seemed to keep getting substantially longer every time you saw him. Ordonez was quickly turning into a Detroit baseball superstar, something Tiger fans have not seen since 1984.

But then things changed. In 2010, despite hitting .310, Ordonez lost his power, his doubles and home run numbers plummeted and the city started to turn on Maggs. The nickname “single-lio” was spawned and talk of “97.1 The Ticket” turned from how Magglio changed the destiny of Tiger baseball for the better to Maggs needs to be benched. You see, Ordonez had a ridiculous contract that offered him 18 million dollars in 2010 if he reached a certain amount of plate appearances and 15 million more in 2011. Fans started to hate Magglio! Of course Ordonez breaking his ankle in 2010 didn’t help as Detroit started to tailspin right after, and playoff dreams were once again not realized.

This season, Ordonez made somewhat of a comeback after getting offered a one year $10 million deal. He hit .255, was not an everyday player and was told late in the season that he was essentially benched. Granted, he then was forced back into action due to a Brennan Boesch injury and put together a lengthy hitting streak to end the year. Ordonez even got to play in the postseason before fracturing that ankle once again in the ALCS and that was it! His career as a Tiger in a nutshell.

So how will you remember Magglio? Will it be for all the good he did at the start of his Tiger days or will it be for the struggling at the end? I’m not saying that Ordonez should have his number retired; I understand that seven seasons with a franchise is not nearly long enough for an honor like that.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Ordonez has reached “legendary” status and should be talked about like Detroit greats Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Jack Morris and more are. I was asked the question yesterday if Ordonez has done as much for the Tigers as Kirk Gibson did throughout his career. I immediately said “yes”, people around me laughed and said “no way.” What do you think?

I remember how bad Detroit baseball was! Really since 1987, that team that wears the Old English D on their chest didn’t have a chance at baseball greatness. Hell, they didn’t even have a chance at baseball mediocrity. The Tigers went from a historic, successful franchise to garbage and Ordonez helped to change it around.

We can talk about how Detroit overpaid for the services of Ordonez and that is the flat out truth. But it was what happened after he came here that was well worth that money. Not only did the Tigers start to be competitive and were once again relevant but Detroit started to get free agents as well and really as a fan that’s all you can ask for.

Detroit went from constant 100 loss seasons to going to the World Series in 2006 and having a shot at the postseason after that. Who do you credit with that turnaround? I know it wasn’t Magglio alone, but he had a huge role in it. And for that reason alone, I remember Magglio for the good! How about you?

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