I need to make a clarification.
Last week I said I wasn’t a baseball guy, and that’s not 100% true. Every. Word. Matters.
What I should’ve said, was that I’m not a 162 day guy.
I’ve watched baseball since I can remember, and I’ve written about the state of the game, as well as some individual ball players.
But to be a 162 day guy is to grind with every pitch, and every out. It’s a labor of love that I don’t fully possess. Where The Encyclopedia grew up, you only had three choices as a baseball fan. The Yankees via YES Network, The Mets through SNY, or a third…where I landed…TBS.
Yes, the Turner Broadcasting System. TBS used to play quite a few Braves games when they were in the midst of their 14 consecutive NL East division titles. I’m not a student of the game. I wasn’t raised in the clubhouse…but I know a good looking uniform when I see one, and over time, I learned to appreciate Atlanta’s individual talent, and organizational success.
The elements of baseball that resonate with me are the little things. How Greg Maddox wore the same glasses my Grandpa sported through 4 Cy Young’s, or how everything 5-time All-Star Andruw Jones did on the field, and in the batter’s box appeared effortless.
...You know who made playing shortstop effortless? Rey Ordóñez.
Ask any Met fan what middle infielder they recall having the slickest glove, and they’ll tell you, it was Rey O.
In ‘99 Ordóñez played 154 games, committing only 4 errors on the season. There was just one minor issue, old Rey couldn’t hit. His career batting average was .246, and in 9 seasons in the bigs he homered 12 times…combined…again, 12 dingers in the totality of his career.
Without a doubt, the Cuban born shortstop could pick it. From ‘97-’99 he won three straight Gold Gloves. I didn’t monitor his every move for 162 games, but I’ve never watched a player and been more sure that he’d gobble up a short hop, and then swiftly ground out to second base with his next at bat.
The Encyclopedia isn’t a huge religious guy, so I can’t confirm whether or not Jesus walked on water, but I can tell you Calvin Reese Jr. looked like he could from 2nd base.
Between Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, and the Hall of Really Good in Brandon Phillips, there was Pokey Reese.
Ask any Reds fan, and they’ll recollect on the can’t miss kid from South Carolina, who was a sure fire 5-tool player.
In '99 he played 149 games, and batted .285, taking over full-time at 2nd base for Cincinnati. Reese formed a formidable partnership with the aforementioned Larkin, only committing 7 errors that season. But that would be the highest he’d hit for average in his career, leveling out at .248 when it was all said and done.
He won back to back Gold Gloves in ‘99-’00 though, and was a key defensive replacement in the ‘04 Red Sox World Series team.
I’m not sure we can call it a slump if you just can't hit. Regardless of the lack of prosperity at the plate, it would've been pretty cool to see these two as a middle infield battery in the late 90's.
Nobody wants to, or plans to fail at something everyday. Knowing you're gonna see 3-4 at bats, and hope you can get a solitude, "ground ball with eyes" is a tough spot to be in, but that's the difference between a Chipper Jones and a Rey Ordóñez.
I need to make another clarification. Every. Hit. Matters.
While Ordóñez and Reese flirted with the Mendoza line, it's not like they went hitless for the entirety of their careers. In '99, I didn't see Rey Ordóñez's 4 error 154 game season, or Pokey Reese's 7 error 149 game season. But I know they both had moments when their glove, and their bat came together.