Did you hear? Sounds like Magglio Ordonez is going to have a big year.
The audible feeling is that Maggs is going to look more like the Ordonez of 2006-07 than the impostor who wore his uniform for all but the final month of the 2009 season.
Manager Jim Leyland and GM Dave Dombrowski have, more than once this spring training, alluded to the sound that Ordonez’s bat is making when it connects with the baseball.
I’m not exactly sure what that sound is, but I know this: if you think that the Tigers’ offensive fortunes ride on the broad shoulders of Miguel Cabrera or the rough-whiskered face of Johnny Damon, or the potential of young Austin Jackson, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
It says here that Ordonez’s performance will, more than anything, determine the Tigers’ chances of contending in 2010—pitching notwithstanding.
Maggs’s struggles in 2009 are well-documented, and painful to recall. He was a power and gap hitter turned Punch and Judy. His average was pedestrian, and he was unplugged from his power source; if he was a beer, he’d have been Ordonez Lite.
Then, as mysteriously as it vanished, Ordonez’s gap hitting returned in late-August. It was a time when Cabrera desperately needed another bat in the lineup to join him in his fight to create some semblance of an offense for the Tigers.
From September 1 until the end of the season, Ordonez went 43-for-98 (.439) with seven doubles. He raised his average from .275 to a season-ending .310, thanks to 15 multi-hit games among the 28 in which he appeared. “Snap” and “crackle” were reunited with “pop.”
As Ordonez heated up, Cabrera cooled off. The Tigers were a one-man offense for the last couple weeks of the season, but that one man was Maggy, not Miggy.
Ordonez tried mightily to bring the Tigers across the finish line ahead of the Minnesota Twins all by himself, but it proved to be too daunting of a task. An electric extra base hit in the final week against the Twins wasn’t only a game-changer, but it looked like it might have clinched the division for the Tigers; it was the game where the Tigers moved three games ahead of the Twins with four to play.
You know what happened after that.
The last hurrah for Maggs was a clutch home run that tied Game 163 in the eighth inning. He finished the season on an incredible 24-for-49 (.490) tear.
If Ordonez can regain his mojo, the Tigers offense not only “sounds” better, it IS better.
It’d be terrific if the rookie Jackson and the grizzled veteran Damon can form a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the order. Cabrera will get his 30+/100+ in HR and RBI, no matter what.
But if the 36-year-old Ordonez, who figures to hit third, isn’t the Maggs we know and love, then the house of cards collapses.
If Cabrera hadn’t vanished on the Tigers, with Ordonez’s resurgence taking place simultaneously, the Tigers would have waltzed to the divisional title in September.
Let’s hope spring training’s sounds don’t prove to be deceiving.