Last Spring Training, Jedd Gyorko went to Peoria as the favorite to land the starting job at 2B for the Padres. Being that he was a rookie, the Padres had a few “insurance” pieces (in the form of Logan Forsythe, Alexi Amarista, and Yonder Alonso*) who could serve as stopgap solutions in the event Gyorko wasn’t ready to start the season with the big club. Now, imagine the Padres acquired insurance from outside of the organization. This player would be in the latter portion of their career, and just so happen to be the best defensive second baseman of their generation. Go back to 2004, switch the position to shortstop, Jedd Gyorko to Khalil Greene, and the Padres did exactly that**. This man was also an extremely inconsequential Padre.
In January of 2004, the Padres signed Rey Ordonez to a minor league deal. Then an 8-year veteran, Ordonez was known for his glove more than his bat. Actually, I’m doing a disservice to both ends of his game: on defense, he was perhaps the best defensive shortstop of his generation. On offense…well, he had the lowest slugging percentage and wOBA of any qualified shortstop over his career, and was near the bottom in OBP, AVG, ISO, wRC+, etc etc. All glove, no bat. Only, the glove was good enough for Ordonez to receive recognition in an era of inflated offensive stats at the position.
With the acquisition of Ordonez, Padres fans figured he was insurance for Greene at worst, a bench player (and welcome upgrade) to replace Ramon Vazquez at best. That’s not to say everything was cut and dry coming into camp, as his vaunted defense was seen as a potential liability. Mets fans lamented his “worsening” defense post-2000 arm fracture (in reality, he was still a fine defender), but the real concern was a knee injury that ended his 2003 season in May. Overall, though, a scenario that worked out for everyone involved. Except for Ordonez, apparently.
Despite putting up respectable numbers in 8 Spring Training games (.304, 3 2B, 5 RBI), Rey clearly expected an easier time winning the starting job and saw the writing on the wall; Khalil wasn’t going to lose the starting job. On March 21, Ordonez left camp and the Padres pretty much buried him. In one of his rare quotes to the media, GM Kevin Towers said “He thought that his chances probably weren’t real good, and he was probably right. He had a good spring for us, but I think he realized that Greene was our future shortstop and likely to make the team as a starter. Rather than continue to fight it out with him, he decided to take off.” Manager Bruce Bochy was a little more diplomatic about it, saying “It was a tight race and it was going to go deep into spring before we made that decision. He was playing very well. But it sounds like he didn’t think his chances were real good.”
Ordonez caught on with the Cubs, where he was largely ineffective both at the plate and on the field. Perhaps proving concerns about accumulated injuries correct, he was designated for assignment in July. Outside of a 2007 non-roster invitation to Spring Training from the Mariners, Ordonez never played for a Major League organization again.
The Padres are historically a team who brings in “name” players for one last hurrah, so Ordonez is a player who has always stuck out for me. Brought in to compete for a starting job, figured to hang on to the roster in some capacity, and splits a few weeks into camp because the competition was too stiff. A Padre, a name, and relatively nothing to show for it. It’s like he’s Garth Brooks, without the platinum records.
I’m looking to turn this “Inconsequential Padres” thing into a series, and I already have a few more players in mind. If you have any suggestions, however, throw them my way in the comments section.
The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays, and sometimes on other days. Or sometimes neither, just because. Follow me on Twitter, and Nate too! Christmas is two days from now, so Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate. And since this is my last post of 2014 (planned, anyway), have a happy and safe New Year.