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D-backs on the Ballot, #2: Orlando Hudson

O-Dawg in the house! But, I tend to imagine, not in the Hall of Fame...

Arizona Diamonbacks v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
  • Years active: 2002-2012
  • Stats: 1345 games, .273/.341/.412 = .752 OPS, 97 OPS+, 30.9 bWAR
  • Years as a Diamondback: 2006-2008
  • Stats as a Diamondback: 403 games, .294/.365/.448 = .814 OPS, 105 ERA+, 10.5 bWAR

“My grandmother told me when I got out of high school, ‘Son, you ain’t laying around the house.’ She said a sleepy-headed man won’t keep no woman. I said right then, ‘I won’t be a sleepy-headed man. I want to keep a woman.’ I’ll never forget those words.“
Orlando Hudson

This one may be shorter than yesterday’s review of Hudson’s team-mate on the 2007 division-winning Diamondbacks, Livan Hernandez. This is mostly because we still have to reach Hudson, as we count up the All-Time Top 50 Diamondbacks; if I’m not careful, I’m going to end up stealing my own thunder here. On that basis, I’m going to concentrate on Orlando’s career outside of Arizona, since that will be the focus of the Top 50 piece in due course.

The first thing that stands out is Hudson’s draft selection. He was chosen with the one thousand, two hundred and eightieth pick in 1997. Yes: 1,279 players were chosen ahead of him. Orlando was picked in the 43rd round, which doesn’t even exist any more. Fun fact, picked immediately after him, at #1,281 was David DeJesus, though he didn’t sign that year, and went in the fourth round three years later. Conversely, Hudson had been picked as part of the 33rd round in 1996 and didn’t sign there. He was a “draft and follow”, something else which doesn’t exist now, giving the Blue Jays the chance to see how he’d developed before signing him.

Tim Wilken is now a special assistant to GM Mike Hazen with the Diamondbacks, but at the time was scouting director in Toronto, and remembers, “Orlando was a wonderfully animated guy who knew how to play the game. He was a ball yard rat. He always had good hands and a good-enough arm. He was a baseball player, but his strength hadn’t come in yet. At that point, he was a below-average runner – and that’s why he got to be where he was in the draft.” In June 2014, Hudson was rated the eighth-best late-round draft pick in baseball history, and given where he was picked, it’s amazing he is even on the ballot for Cooperstown.

Hudson stuck to his task, reaching the majors in 2002, although he went 0-for-4 with an error in his debut. He recalls, “My first ground ball went right between my legs.” Still, he became the Blue Jays’ everyday second baseman the following season. Over the next three years, he averaged 136 games and a decent (for the middle-infield) OPS+ of 92. More importantly, Hudson’s defensive reputation was growing. Each of those seasons, his dWAR was greater than his oWAR, and Orlando won the first of his four Gold Gloves in 2005. That winter, he was traded from Toronto (along with the returning Miguel Batista) to Arizona, for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos.

[As discussed above, stay tuned for a discussion of Hudson’s time in the desert!]

After leaving the D-backs as a free-agent at the end of 2008, Hudson signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Though he was an All-Star for the second time there, and also won his fourth and final Gold Glove, he fell out of favor with manager Joe Torre. He was benched for Ronnie Belliard down the stretch, and got only four plate-appearances over the Dodgers’ eight post-season games that year. He said, “My teammates talked to me about it more than Joe did, but I never had any answers because (Torre) and I never talked. There was no conversation.” Even the following April, when he had signed with the Minnesota Twins, Hudson still bore a grudge.

Asked if this season has been a relief considering the way last year ended for him, Hudson said, “I don’t talk about that. I talk about Arizona and Toronto.”

“I enjoyed going to the ballpark every day in Arizona and Toronto.”

What about Los Angeles?

“I enjoyed going to the ballpark every day in Arizona and Toronto,” he said.

Ouch. As his career wound down, Hudson signed a two-year deal with San Diego: you might remember the game against Arizona below, where he lost track of the number of outs on a pop-up, and flipped the ball into the stands, giving a pleasantly surprised Chris Young two free bases. Hudson didn’t make it through the second season, being released by the Padres in May, and finished his career as a member of the Chicago White Sox. His final major-league game came on October 3, 2012, though he was still talking about a possible comeback the following June, and played ball that winter in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Despite the four Gold Gloves and two All-Star appearances, Hudson is likely to be one and done on the ballot for Cooperstown. Slick fielding middle-infielders need either to hit for power, or be really good for a lot longer than Hudson’s 11 years in the majors, to make it in there. But, to quote Joe Posnanski, “It was his personality that defined him. Everybody knew the O-Dog. Many loved him. He was generous off the field, working with just about every charity that asked for his time, spending his money on giving his family a better life. He played baseball as many believe it should be played, with gusto, with chatter, with enthusiasm and love.”

At the very least, that’s a Hall of Fame attitude in my book.