Shortstop: Rey Ordonez
Rey Rey is one of just 21 big league shortstops to win two or more Gold Gloves, and he is the only Met in history to pick up the honor on multiple occasions (three).
While he struggled as a 25-year-old rookie (27 errors) in 1996, he quickly became one of the best middle infielders over the next few seasons. Either side of a so-so 1998 campaign, Ordonez committed just nine errors in ’97 and only four in ’99.
If it wasn’t for his skills flashing the leather, his career could have been incredibly short, considering how inept he was with the stick. He was truly useless…a career .245 hitter.
The main problem with Ordonez, his struggles with the bat aside, when he first came up to the Major League was that his footwork was not where it needed to be. He was throwing the ball off balance, and he often tried to force plays that weren’t there. Twelve of his 27 errors were throwing errors, but as he matured and grew at the position, he came a much better defensive player.
As a teenager, it was great watching Ordonez turn the double play. He developed good relationships first with Carlos Baerga and later with Edgardo Alfonso up the middle, and he utilized his trademark play sliding towards the third base line on an almost nightly basis. It wasn’t technically sound, but it sure cut down on his mistakes.
To illustrate just how much he developed, Ordonez threw the ball away just 10 more times in the next four seasons. You can maybe thank Olerud for part of that, because he really was a solid defensive first baseman. The same goes for the time Todd Zeile spent at first.
The one story that I have read that I love about Ordonez comes from his debut on April 1 1996 against the Cardinals.
Royce Clayton tried to score from first base on a double to left field by Ray Lankford. The Mets’ Bernard Gilkey hit cutoff man Ordonez who threw out the speedy Clayton at home from his knees from shallow left field. This type of play was the reason the Mets kept him in the lineup every day.
Whether or not he really did save the Mets a run a game, as the myth goes, Ordonez stands out as the best defensive shortstop they’ve ever had. The fact that coaches would specifically tell youngsters not to emulate him is neither here nor there.