Best Mets Of All Time: No. 10 Rey Ordonez
If we were to take the totality of Rusty Staub‘s Mets career, he would be here, but he doesn’t get the nod here because he did most of his damage when he wore the number 4. While having a very good year in 1975, he wore 10 primarily as a pinch hitter extraordinaire for the Mets in the early 1980s.
Looking past Staub, when you look at the number 10, you may think of Endy Chavez robbing Scott Rolen of a homer in what was the greatest catch made in NLCS history. While Chavez isn’t the best Mets player to ever wear the number 10, the number is defined by defense.
Rey Ordonez defected out of Cuba when he was in the United States as part of the 1993 Summer Universiade tournament held in Buffalo, NY. He’d sign on with the Saint Paul Saints before the Mets signed him to a deal. Three years later, he would be at Shea Stadium showing himself to be the best defensive shortstop in team history.
Ordonez was great defensively literally from day one. On Opening Day, Ordonez fielded a throw from Bernard Gilkey, and from his knees, he would throw out Royce Clayton at home plate. It was the first of many unbelievable defensive plays in his career:
Orodonez was never a hitter, but really, he never needed to be. First off, his defensive greatness more than offset his bat. Second, the Mets were smart in building teams which focused on allowing him to do what he does great. That started a stretch from 1997 to 1999 where he won three straight Gold Gloves.
In Major League history, there are only five National League shortstops to accomplish that feat. Ordonez was the fourth to do so following Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Barry Larkin. If nothing else, Ordonez’s defense was Hall of Fame caliber. Really, it was the stuff of legends. As noted by SABR, Bill Pulsipher once said Ordonez’s Mets teammates called him “SEGA” due to all the video game plays he would make in the field.
Really, good luck trying to find his greatest defensive play. Out in the field, Ordonez was a human highlight reel who could make even sure base hits into outs.
There are so, so many more plays than this. If he played during the age of YouTube, his defense would have been an absolute sensation.
The best season for Ordonez came in 1999 when he was the best defender on the best infield in Major League history. On that team, he and Robin Ventura both won Gold Gloves with John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo deserving them as well. That year, Ordonez would set the Major League record for errorless games/innings at shortstop.
That 1999 season, he would also have some personal offensive highlights with his hitting his first career grand slam. In Game 1 of the NLDS, he would get the bunt down against Randy Johnson to score Ventura from third. In the ninth, with the game tied, he hit a one out single moving Ventura to second in advance of Alfonzo’s grand slam off Bobby Chouinard. Due to a Rickey Henderson fielder’s choice, Ordonez would actually score the winning run of that game.
In Game 3, Ordonez actually delivered the Mets first run of the game in what would prove to be a Mets 9-2 win which put them on the precipice of the NLCS.
The 1999 season would be the last of Ordonez’s Gold Glove seasons. In the following year, Ordonez would suffer a season ending broken forearm. In typical Ordonez fashion, he broke his arm on a truly spectacular play. Al Leiter picked F.P. Santangelo off first, and Todd Zeile made an offline throw to Ordonez. Ordonez leaped and spun himself to put the tag down on Santangelo, but he broke his arm in the process. With his arm not healing, he was not a part of the run 2000 pennant run.
It was a play only he could make, and it was the reason his season ended. To a certain extent, that was the end of Ordonez’s Mets career. In Mets history, Ordonez has the third highest defensive WAR. To put that into perspective, Ordonez accumulated his 10.2 over seven years. The two players ahead of him, Bud Harrelson (13 years) and Jerry Grote (12 years) had much longer Mets careers.
As such, it is very fair to say Ordonez is the best defensive player in Mets history, and ultimately, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 10.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Ordonez was the tenth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 10.