Friday, April 30, 2010

Maggs is Maggs (Again)

The rumors of Magglio Ordonez's death are greatly exaggerated.

Look who's batting third for the Tigers and hitting over .300 and displaying power and run-producing ability. Just like the good old days.

There were folks who wanted to run Maggs out of town last year, when he was 35 years old and looking every day of that, and then some.

The batting average was pedestrian. But what was most troubling was the power looked to have been cut.

Ordonez was a multi-million dollar slap hitter for most of 2009, when he battled injuries and some pre-season personal strife. He was 35 and the naysayers were out in droves. How quickly these power hitters can go down the tubes, people said while shaking their heads.

Then came September and suddenly Ordonez was himself again. He was torrid---positively scorching. It was he, not Miguel Cabrera, who put the Tigers on his back as they tried like mad to hold off the hard-charging Minnesota Twins.

Ahh, but was this simply one last hurrah for an expiring warrior, or was this a portend of his resurrection?

So far, the answer appears to be the latter.

Maggs is Maggs again. He's hitting .310, but the best part is that he's been plugged back into the power socket: Ordonez has six doubles, four homers, 17 RBI, and a robust slugging average of .517.

So stop writing the eulogies. Put that shovel away.

Yesterday was a milestone day for the Venezuelan.

Ordonez's single in the fourth inning was the 2,000th hit of his career, making him just the sixth player from Venezuela to reach that number.

“It’s huge because there are only 260 players who have done it in more than 100 years of baseball,” Ordonez said of his accomplishment after the Tigers beat the Twins. “I’m happy for me, my family, my country and my team."

The Tigers' batting order, which seemed moribund after the cashiering of Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco, is now no picnic for opposing pitchers.

It starts with The Kid, leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, who's a rookie but who is hitting well over .300. The nerve!

Then you have 36-year-old Johnny Damon and his slap-happy left-handed hitting bat. After a rough start, Damon is another .300+ guy.

It gets worse.

Third is Ordonez, then you have to deal with Cabrera. Both guys are clutch and gobble up RBIs like Pac Men.

Sadly, the terror decreases dramatically the lower you go in the order. The Tigers' top four are "Nightmare on Elm Street"; the bottom four are "Bambi."

The team's Jekyll and Hyde, schizophrenic batting order is one reason why the Tigers are leaving men stranded by the bucketful. It's the worst display since FEMA post-Katrina.

Still, the Tigers might have two 100+ RBI men in Ordonez and Cabrera.

Quite a change from last year, when an $18 million bonus due to Ordonez hinged in the balance because it was based on plate appearances. And Maggs wasn't getting enough of them, because he, frankly, didn't deserve them.

That all changed in August and September, when his bat warmed in the season's dog days.

No one talks about jettisoning Ordonez any longer.

Last year he was an old 35. Now he's a young 36.

Joe Garagiola called it right when he titled his book.

"Baseball is a Funny Game."