In 1999, Rey Ordonez put together the best defensive season of his career with the New York Mets and one of the top years for any defender in Major League Baseball history.
Something just about all of us spot is a glove on his hand.
Ordonez may be going for a ball in the hall. He may be making an off-balance throw. He may be diving straight up for a line drive. Whatever it is you see, he’s fielding a baseball.
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Ordonez was a spectacular defender during his MLB career. In 1999, he put together one of the all-time great seasons any player in the game ever has.
Back then, measuring a player’s defensive abilities was about only a few things. Errors, fielding percentage, and how far our jaws dropping watching them play were the main considerations.
Nowadays, we have better metrics. Specifically, it’s WAR many people reference when measuring a player’s value.
If we’re going to do the same, Ordonez had what ranks as a tie for the 19th best season ever for a defensive player. With a tremendous 4 WAR on defense, the former Mets shortstop put together a year few men have matched before or since.
WAR in both defense and offensive terms does have its shortcomings. It’s not fully accurate, particularly for some positions like first base. In this argument, we’re measuring Ordonez against men from all positions in all eras. There’s no advantage for anyone.
A major reason why Ordonez had such an impressive WAR in 1999 is the number of errors he made. In 640 chances, the official scorer credited him with only four.
This gave Ordonez a fielding percentage of .994. That year, shortstops averaged .967.
The 1999 campaign marked Ordonez’s third straight Gold Glove Award. By far his best year on defense, it’s such a shame he didn’t get to keep the streak alive the following year when an early injury limited him to only 45 games.
Ordonez was on fire in 1999 both in the field and at the plate. He drove in a career-high 60 runs while hitting .258.
Blessed with defensive abilities worthy of Cooperstown, Ordonez didn’t bring much else to the field in a typical season. He was a prototypical number eight hitter who may have seen more time hitting ninth if Tony La Russa ever got his hands on him.
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Long before WAR was a thing, Mets fans knew very well how amazing Ordonez was in the field. Thanks to new statistics, a whole generation that missed him can look at numbers and realize how historic this year was for one of the best defenders to ever play baseball in New York.