Player: Rey Ordonez
Born: January 11th, 1971 (Currently 44 years old)
Drafted: Not drafted, signed as an amateur free agent on October 29th, 1993
End of Tenure: On October 30th, 2003 was granted free agency
* - Didn't appear in a MLB game
Currently: Traveled back to Cuba in 2013
Rays Stat Line: 0.7 WAR, Slashed .316/.328/.487, 37 Hits, 3 HR, 22 RBI, and 0 SB in 34 games
On July 12th, 1993, twenty year old, Reinaldo Ordonez Perreira left the Cuban National Team during the Pan-American games being held in Buffalo, New York. Ordonez decided to showcase his talent by playing in the Independent Leagues for the St. Paul Saints on a team that featured many former and future big-leaguers, such as Kevin Millar.
In 15 games for the Saints, Ordonez slashed .283/.317/.350 with 0 HR and 7 RBI. After the 1993 season ended, the New York Mets won Ordonez through the draft lottery thanks to having the worst record that season. They eventually confirmed that they had the signed the young shortstop in February.
In 1994, the Mets assigned Ordonez to High-A St. Lucie where he performed well in 79 games, slashing .309/.336/.408 with 2 HR and 40 RBI. Due to his performance, Ordonez was promoted Double-A Binghamton where he slashed .262/.276/.351 with 1 HR and 20 RBI's in 48 games.
During his first professional year in the states, Ordonez displayed a lot of upside. If he could have maintained a league average bat, his high quality defense seemed poised to keep him the majors for quite a long time. Baseball America thought highly the young Cuban short stop and ranked him 3rd in the Mets system behind Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson, and also ranked him 20th in the all of baseball.
In 1995, Ordonez spent the entire season at Triple-A Norfolk. In 125 games, Ordonez slashed .214/.256/.294 with 2 HR and 50 RBI's. Despite those lackluster offensive numbers, Ordonez continued to impress on defense, resulting in another good ranking from Baseball America. He was still ranked 3rd in the Mets organization, Jay Payton surpassed him for 2nd and Paul Wilson moved up to first, meanwhile Ordonez was also ranked 17th in all of baseball.
In 1996, Rey Ordonez finally got to make his major league debut. On opening day, Dallas Green chose the 25-year-old short stop for the 8th spot in the Mets' lineup. Ordonez saw immediate action, as the St. Louis Cardinals leadoff batter, Willie McGee hit a groundball right to the short stop who made a clean play for the first out of the game.
Ordonez took his 1st at bat in the bottom of the 3rd, and didn't see a strike as he walked on 4 straight pitches.He was thrown out at second as part of a strike-'em-out throw-'em-out double play. Ordonez grounded out in his next at bat, but in the bottom of the seventh, Ordonez was part of a Mets comeback. Facing Rick Honeycutt and on an 0-1 pitch, Ordonez sliced an 0-1 pitch for ground ball through the right side of the infield for his first career base hit.
Ordonez then came around to score on a Lance Johnson base hit that tied the game, and the Mets went on to win 7-6. The highlight of the game though, came in the top of the 7th when the Cardinals held a 6-3 lead. Jerry Dipoto was on the mound for New York and Royce Clayton had just bunted for a single with two outs. Ray Lankford was at the plate and on a 1-1 pitch, Lankford laced a ball down the left field line.
Bernard Gilkey chased the ball down in the corner and let loose an absolutely pitiful throw to Ordonez, who had to go down on his knees to field it. Meanwhile, With Clayton rounding third and heading for home, Ordonez fired from his knees in shallow left field. Todd Hundley, the Mets catcher, caught the ball after one one hop just before Clayton came sliding in, and applied the tag for the final out of the inning and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Ordonez spent the entire season as the Mets starting shortstop and made exceptional defensive plays througout the season, which helped excuse his mediocre batting line. Ordonez didn't even hit his first homerun until September 19th, when he went deep off of Rich Hunter of the Philadelphia Phillies. In 151 games, Ordonez slashed .257/.289./303 with one HR and 30 RBI. His performance earned him some Rookie of the Year attention, but he placed fifth and finished behind F.P. Santangelo, Jason Kendall, Edgar Renteria, and the winner Todd Hollandsworth.
Human Highlight Reel
In 1997, Ordonez was again New York's opening day shortstop. He already rated as one of the worst offensive players in the game, and a fractured left hand surely didn't help any. Ordonez went on the DL on June 2nd, and returned on July 11th. In 120 games, Ordonez slashed .216/.255/.256 with 1 HR and 33 RBI. The Mets were willing to accept Ordonez offensive woes in exchange for his outstanding defense though, which earned him his first gold glove award.
The following year was more of the same, as Ordonez was back as the Mets opening day shortstop, and still an ineffective hitter who displayed some exquisite defense. On August 5th, Ordonez was part of a triple play against the San Francisco Giants. In the top of the 5th inning, with Bobby Jones on the mound, Barry Bonds was on third base and Jeff Kent was on first with none out.
On the first pitch, J.T. Snow hit a sharp groundball straight to John Olerud, who quickly threw the ball to Ordonez at second, who immediately got the ball back to Olerud at first. Bonds froze at third, unsure if the ball had been caught, but took off a few seconds later, only to have Olerud nail him at the plate to complete the triple play.
When the 1998 season concluded, Ordonez had earned himself a second consecutive gold glove award, but also slashed a measly .246/.278/.299 with 1 HR and 42 RBI in 153 games.
In 1999, Ordonez started of sluggish at the plate, but from the beginning of May until the end of June, he hit over .300. After Junethough, Ordonez only hit .230, and he ended up slashing .258/.319/.317 with 1 HR and 60 RBI in 154 games.
Ordonez continued to perform awe-inspiring defense with plays like the one below and earned himself a 3rd consecutive gold glove award.
In 2000, Ordonez was in the midst of an absolutely putrid season when on May 29th, he suffered an ugly injury. F.P. Santangelo was taking his lead off second when Ordonez was part of a pickoff play. The throw came high, and Ordonez had to leap to catch it. As he was coming down to apply the tag, Santangelo slid in and his helmet made contact with Ordonez's left forearm and shattered the bone.
The injury put Ordonez was on the shelf for three weeks, after which it was decided the he'd need season-ending surgery. This was a pivotal moment in Mets history, as they now had to shore up their infield with a veteran presence. On July 28th, 2000 the Mets traded Pat Gorman, Leslie Brea, Mike Kinkade, and Melvin Mora to the Baltimore Orioles for Mike Bordick. Also on the date, the Mets also sent Jason Tyner and Paul Wilson to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for Bubba Trammell and Rick White.
Ordonez only played in 45 games in 2000, and during that time, he slashed .188/.278/.226 with no home runs and nine RBI.
In 2001, Ordonez was back in Bobby Valentine's lineup and also back to his usual struggles as a hitter. Now though, since Ordonez's injury the season before, he was struggling to make the most routine of plays. This brought upon the ire of the Mets fans who had accepted Ordonez's poor bat in exchange for his incredible defense, but now that his glove had slipped, their patience wore thin. In 149 games, Ordonez slashed .247/.299/.336 with a career high, three home runs and 44 RBI.
Unfortunately for the Mets, their GM, Steve Phillips thought that Ordonez was going to be their starting shortstop for the next several years. Back before the 2000 season began, the Mets extended Ordonez with a four-year contract worth $19 million, so in 2002, Ordonez was still the Mets shortstop while a 19-year-old Jose Reyes was lying in wait to take Ordonez's position.
Ordonez produced his typical (bad) offensive numbers, but his defense failed him again. In 144 games, Ordonez slashed .254/.292/.324 with one home run and 42 RBI. Near the end of the what was an altogether disastrous season for the Mets, Ordonez lashed out at the Shea Stadium faithful who had grown tired of their aging Cuban shortstop.
"I don't want to play here no more. The fans here are too stupid. You have to play perfect every game. You can't make an error. You can't go 0-for-4. Are we like (expletive) machines?"
After that, it was clear the Ordonez's days as a Met were numbered. On December 15th, 2002 New York dealt him to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (who had just completed one of the worst seasons in recent memory) for Russ Johnson and Josh Pressley. The Mets also gave the Devil Rays $4.25 million as part of the deal to cover the majority of what was owed to Ordonez for 2003.
What Could Have Been...
When Ordonez arrived in Tampa Bay, he was one of the biggest names on the team. He was the veteran shortstop among a bunch of younger prospects and older players who were on their way out of the game. The month before acquiring Ordonez, the Devil Rays dealt their lone 2002 all-star to the Seattle Mariners for Antonio Perez, and the rights to negotiate with manager Lou Pinella, whom they eventually signed.
Ordonez was Tampa Bay's opening day shortstop on March 29th, 2003 batting 9th in the order. In his Devil Rays debut, Ordonez went 0-2 with a walk, a few days later though, in a 16 inning affair with the Boston Red Sox, Ordonez registered 8 at bats. He went 3-8, falling a triple shy of the cycle, but he had a clutch two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning the tied the game at eight. The Devil Rays went on to lose though, 9-8.
Ordonez started out the season scorching the ball, putting up the best numbers of his career. On April 18th, only sixteen games into the season, Ordonez matched his career high with his third homerun. After the game on April 30th, Ordonez average stood at .319.
Unfortunately, after a game on May 8th, it was found out that Ordonez sprained his left knee. The injury sidelined him for around 3 weeks. The Devil Rays needed a shortstop to fill that void, so they went out and signed Julio Lugo, who had been released by the Houston Astros a few weeks prior for a domestic violence issue.
After a longer than expected absence, Ordonez was ready to return in late June. The Devil Rays decided to let him play in the annual Hall of Fame game on June 16th. Sadly after playing that game, Ordonez's knee swelled up and it was revealed soon after that he would require surgery, ending what had looked to be his best season yet.
If Ordonez could have kept up his performance, he would have likely been traded at the deadline for a nice prospect, but Julio Lugo turned out to be a huge signing for the Rays. He would give Tampa Bay 3 decent seasons then be traded in 2006 for two prospects (the then highly rated Joel Guzman and Sergio Pedroza).
Ordonez would finish the 2003 seasonhaving played in only 34 games, in which he slashed .316/.328/.487 with three home runs and 22 RBI. Ordonez's contract was up at season's end, and he became a free agent on October 30th.
Unable to Stick
On January 24th, 2004 Rey Ordonez signed with the San Diego Padres to compete for their starting shortstop job. One of the other candidates in the Padres camp was their number two prospect, Khalil Greene. Ordonez played well in spring training, but saw the he couldn't compete with Greene and left camp before the season began. He was placed on the restricted list, and was eventually released on May 12th.
Later on that day, Ordonez signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs that was later confirmed on the 18th. Ordonez spent two weeks getting some playing time in the minor leagues, then on May 28th was called up to Chicago where he played that day and went 0-4.
On July 19th, Alex Gonzalez was ready to be activated from the 60-day DL, meaning the Cubs no longer had the need for Ordonez, so they designated him for assignment and released him a few days later was released. In only 23 games for the Cubs, he slashed .164/.190/.262 with one home run and five runs batted in.
Ordonez hung around the next few years and never formally announced his retirement. He was given a few spring training chances by the Phillies and Mariners, but could never quite cut it and was eventually released by both clubs.
Ordonez returned to Cuba in 2013 for the first time since he defected 20 years before to see his former wife and children, whom had grown up without their father. That is the last that Ordonez has been seen in the news.
Some of Rey Ordonez's outstanding defensive plays, but also includes his 1st career HR:
Career Stat Line: 1.2 WAR, Slashed .246/.289/.310, 767 Hits, 12 HR, 287 RBI, and 28 SB in 973 games
- Placed 5th in the 1996 NL Rookie of the Year voting
- 3-Time Gold Glove winner (1997-1999)