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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Time Top 50: #20, Orlando Hudson

Who let the O-Dawgs out?

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 22.15 (11/46/19)
  • Seasons: 2006-2008
  • Stats: 403 games, .294/.365/.448 = .814 OPS, 105 OPS+, 10.5 bWAR
  • Best season: 2007 - 139 games, .294/.376/.441 = .817 OPS, 105 OPS+, 4.3 bWAR

“I still go out at every stadium and look around and say, ‘Wow! I’m in the major leagues. I’m living my childhood dream.”
Orlando Hudson

We head into the top twenty, and revisit the career of a man whom we wrote about barely a week ago, in connection with his (brief) appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. There was a LOT more we could have written there, such as the urban legend that he was sent to the minors for saying his GM in Toronto “looks like a pimp back in his day.” [Hudson was sent down after saying that, but the two were likely not connected] But this particular piece is going to focus on Orlando’s time in Arizona, which began with his trade from the Blue Jays, two days after Christmas in 2005.

We got two members of our top 50, Hudson and Miguel Batista, in exchange for Troy Glaus (a move perhaps prompted by the issue which saw Glaus subsequently named in the Mitchell Report) + Sergio Santos. Here’s what former SnakePitter Dan Strittmatter - now, incidentally, the Chicago White Sox’s Manager of Baseball Operations! - had to saw about that trade, when he looked back at it in 2010.

We got rid of Glaus’s contract before it really became devastating (and it would have become really devastating), and Santos could never get it together. Batista gave us pretty much what we expected, a solid year in the rotation and a departure for greener pastures. Hudson, however, made this deal, because while his defense wasn’t plus as advertised, his bat was far better than what was expected from him, or from most people at that position. We got more than we expected, and got it cost-efficiently. You can’t complain about that. Really, the only way you could look at this negatively is that, perhaps, if we’d kept Glaus, we wouldn’t have been so quick to sign EB to that gigantic extension... Perhaps... Grade: B+

It wasn’t long before we began to see the positives from that trade in action: Orlando would give us consistent, above-average offense for a traditionally weak-hitting position (Hudson posted OPS+ figures of 102, 105 and 108 for his three seasons in Arizona). But his defense would also win him two Gold Gloves here, sandwiched by the ones he won before and after, in Toronto and Los Angeles. While reluctant to criticize someone who is now in the front-office of an MLB team, this aspect of Hudson’s play maybe was actually “plus”. He put up 3.8 dWAR over his three seasons here, though the defensive metrics do disagree, with Fangraphs’s Def having Orlando at -11.8 runs.

He immediately became a fixture in the Diamondbacks line-up. In his very first season here, Hudson’s 157 games, 151 starts and 142 complete games were all highs on the team. While superior for a second-baseman, his stats that year won him the 2006 “Most Average Player” award from the New York Times. For Hudson batted .287 with 15 home runs and 67 RBI, all near the major league averages that year of .283-18-73. The paper noted, “His stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentages were almost dead-on with major league norm.” Orlando also picked up his first National League Gold Glove at second base, an honor he would repeat the following season.

2007 probably saw Arizona achieve Peak O-Dawg, though unfortunately, he played no part in the team’s post-season exploits. Despite a twisted ankle, he started the year by getting on base in 33 straight games, batting .341 over that time. No player since has matched that streak, which remains the third-longest in franchise history [Jay Bell had a 40-game streak in 1998] His performance proved good enough to get Hudson his first All-Star call-up - he’d also make it in 2009, as a Dodger. In this edition of the Midsummer Classic, Hudson went 0-for-1 with a walk and a strikeout.

After the break, he kept on hitting and by September, Orlando was already worth more than four bWAR. But he would end up missing basically the last month and the playoffs, after he tore ligaments in his thumb sliding into third base against the San Diego Padres at Petco on September 4. [Kids, this provides a very good example of why going head-first into the bag is strongly discouraged by many people...] He didn’t leave immediately, explaining later, “My weight went over my body and I tore the ligaments off the bone. I got up, called time, and grabbed my finger. It wasn’t broken, so I finished the game.”

He even played the next game, but eventually had to call uncle: “My thumb felt like it had four heartbeats.” Orlando had only missed two games to that point, but the resulting surgery ended his season. He remained a cheerleader as the Diamondbacks reached the National League Championship Series: “I’m here as if I was playing. I stick around. This is my family. I’m not going anywhere just because I’m hurt. It doesn’t mean I’m going to sit at home and not do anything.” His presence was appreciated by the rest of the team, Justin Upton saying, “He’s a guy you have to have around every day at a time like this... Just the energy he brings, keeping everybody loose.”

Hudson’s final season as a Diamondback was arguably his best with the lumber, as he hit a career-high .304, with his OPS of .817 tying the personal best set the previous season. However, for the second year in a row, O-Dawg’s season came to an abrupt and premature end through an injury to a limb. This time, he dislocated a bone in his left wrist on August 9, while trying to recover a wild throw from Juan Cruz and tag the BravesBrian McCann (above). He also damaged ligaments in the play, and two more surgical procedures were required to repair the damage. It’s possible this injury played into the D-backs’ decision to let Hudson walk as a free-agent that winter.

However, his time with the Diamondbacks didn’t end there. Orlando eventually retired - somewhat unwillingly, it appears! - from the game, with his last MLB appearance being in 2012. But at the end of 2016, Hudson re-joined Arizona as an assistant coach, and on his own initiative helped coach the fall instructional camp. He said of the experience, “I’m loving it. It keeps things in perspective when you’re around these kids. I was once like them. And by watching the different coaches, I’m able to see different styles. I’m always learning something.” He then worked last season as a Player Development Assistant in our minor-league system, a role he’ll be repeating again in 2018.

Hudson was always the epitome of an over-achiever: few 43rd-round draft picks ever make it to the majors, let alone become two-time All-Stars. There have certainly been Diamondbacks with greater talent. But there have not been many with a more obvious and pure love for the game in all its forms, or who brought their enthusiasm A-game to the park, each and every day, in the way that O-Dawg did. He was a character, and an almost unique one at that in Arizona history.

“I’m always hyper. You can put me in Timbuktu, I’m still going to be hyper. It doesn’t matter, I’m gonna be me.”
Orlando Hudson