December 17, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Lynn Henning

Magglio Ordonez signing a positive for Tigers

“Magglio is very loyal to Mike Ilitch and very happy to be coming back to Detroit,” Scott Boras', Magglio Ordonez's agent, told The News. “All the parties came together to make this happen.” (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)

If ever Detroiters wanted to feel good about their town and their baseball team, Magglio Ordonez just handed them a holiday-season Hosanna.

Ordonez will play for the Tigers at least one more season, his agent, Scott Boras, told The Detroit News on Thursday. Reportedly, it is a $10 million contract — precisely the salary range anticipated. The Tigers must wait until Ordonez passes a physical before any deal is complete.

Boras would not confirm that Ordonez received multi-year offers from other teams. But he did say there was significant interest from other teams with the potential for Ordonez to make more money elsewhere.

"Magglio is very loyal to Mike Ilitch and very happy to be coming back to Detroit," Boras told The News. "All the parties came together to make this happen."

People are finally getting it. Baseball players appreciate playing in Detroit. In the same way the Red Wings have had no trouble making Hall of Fame talent happy to work in Hockeytown, the Tigers are now being lifted by the same updrafts.

A good and generous owner. A solid front office. A manager players respect. Teammates a star player can like and rely upon. And fans who love them.

That's why Ordonez is returning to the Tigers. The benefits, personally, are no greater than the boost the Tigers will get from a polished, intellectual, hitter who has a .312 lifetime average and more smarts at the plate than most collective lineups.

Ordonez also is the definitively elegant gentleman. Fans can root for him with reassurance. He, as well as so many on the Tigers roster, crush the notion of professional sports being pock-marked by spoiled and abrasive athletes.

That, too, is why the Tigers not only desperately needed him. It is why they badly wanted him back.

Ordonez is the Tigers' version of Red Wings deity Nick Lidstrom. He is a marvelous talent and an equally sterling person. In a tight game, with two strikes on him, he can be counted on to drill a single to right field that ties a game or puts the Tigers a run ahead, or to pull a hanging curve into the seats.

He is an elite hitter who nonetheless had a couple of significant caveats as the Tigers considered bringing him back in 2010.

Ordonez will turn 37 next month. No matter how many hours an athlete spends turning a gym into his home, no matter how generous his genes have been to his longevity, a professional baseball player's ceiling is generally in the late 30s, if time is even that kind to him.

Two years ago, Ordonez discovered that 35 was a world different from 34. It helped lead to a miserable season that only got better at the end, perhaps not coincidentally as his wife regained her health following a battle with cancer.

Last year, he was lean, muscular, and a locomotive at the plate. And then he broke his ankle during a slide into home plate during a Saturday evening game at Comerica Park.

The Tigers and Ordonez all but saw their season fall apart. It looked as if Ordonez might have taken his last at-bat in Detroit. His vesting option for 2011, worth a cool $15 million, was canceled.

But look what endured. A relationship. A hitter's renowned skills. A mutual desire to brand himself and the Tigers, once again, as a tandem devoted to making Detroit baseball better.

Credit the Tigers for not giving up on Ordonez, for not ceding him to another team, even if it is dangerous to offer any 37-year-old player a deal for $10 million, which looks as if it will be his salary for 2011.

They did their due diligence, boldly, last week by hosting a workout for Ordonez during the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.

They needed to see how he looked on his surgically stabilized ankle. They could not, even with their own affection for Ordonez and their need for a heavy bat at the No. 3 slot, afford to make sentimental misjudgments.

It makes sense, as well, that their affinity for Ordonez did not extend into a second season. That would have been doubling down on a bet that has a much better chance of paying off in 2011 than in being a guaranteed return as Ordonez reaches 38.

This is good news for Detroit's baseball fans, this apparent re-connection. Each party wanted the other, and for reasons far beyond money.

A nice seasonal story, this renewal of vows between a player and his team. It's a union that could lead to a nicer baseball season, as well, for Comerica Park's customers.

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