Bordick posts All-Star year, but odds long

June 18, 2000|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra are potential Hall of Famers, a latter-day Willie, Mickey and the Duke.

How can Mike Bordick make the American League All-Star team against such competition?

Most likely, he can't.

But Bordick is worthy of All-Star consideration, and that fact alone is testament to his remarkable first half.

Fans might not view the late-blooming Bordick as one of the game's best shortstops - he is fifth in the AL balloting - but his younger peers do.

"He's solid, a great player, for sure," Garciaparra said.

"He does everything right," Jeter said.

"He is having a real nice year. An All-Star year," Rodriguez said.

Still, Bordick knows it is a "pretty good long shot" that AL manager Joe Torre will select him for the team if he is not the elected starter.

Cal Ripken made 13 straight All-Star starts at shortstop (12 as the elected starter, one as a replacement for the injured Alan Trammell) before moving to third when the Orioles signed Bordick before the 1997 season.

The competition is much fiercer now - not only to start, but also to make the team. Willie, Mickey and the Duke played the same position (center field) in the same city (New York), but Mays and Snider were in the NL, and Mantle the AL.

The logjam among AL shortstops will ease only if Rodriguez leaves for the NL as a free agent after this season - a distinct possibility, with the New York Mets, Los Angeles and Arizona reportedly among the teams interested in signing him.

But for now, the AL features not only Rodriguez, Jeter and Garciaparra, but also Omar Vizquel, the first American Leaguer to win seven straight Gold Gloves at shortstop since the inception of the award in 1957.

Garciaparra didn't make the All-Star team two years ago, when Rodriguez was elected and AL manager Mike Hargrove named Jeter and Vizquel his reserves.

Rodriguez didn't make it last year, when Garciaparra was elected and Torre again named Jeter and Vizquel the reserves.

"I thought I should have gone, but I didn't," said Rodriguez, who was batting .316 with 18 homers and 48 RBIs at the break. "The whole thing is unpredictable. Every year, it seems like two or three good shortstops will be denied."

Vizquel, batting only .250 through yesterday, is almost certain to be an odd man out this season. Bordick probably will be, too, even though he has 43 RBIs to Garciaparra's 36 and Jeter's 21.

Garciaparra and Jeter have spent time on the disabled list, while Bordick has started every one of the Orioles' games. Still, the All-Star Game is for fans, and the fans want to see the biggest stars.

You can't make a serious case for Bordick over Garciaparra, whose .387 batting average would lead the league if he had the qualifying number of at-bats.

Or Jeter, the most important player for the two-time defending world champions.

Or Rodriguez, who ranks in the top 10 in all three Triple Crown categories.

Still, All-Star managers occasionally find room for highly respected veterans enjoying career years. B.J. Surhoff fit that description last season, and at 35 became the oldest first-time All-Star since Detroit's Doyle Alexander in 1988.

Bordick, who turns 35 on July 21, is in the same mold, and his selection would rank as an even greater accomplishment than Surhoff's. Surhoff was the No. 1 pick of the 1985 amateur draft. Bordick signed with Oakland as a non-drafted free agent in 1986.

"It's not a goal," Bordick said of an All-Star appearance. "But it certainly would be a thrill."

And certainly deserved.

Bordick is on pace for 30 homers and 107 RBIs, both of which would be career highs. In his four seasons with the Orioles, he has increased his batting average from .236 to .260 to .277 to its current .306. And his defense, of course, is consistently excellent.

Jeter praised Bordick's fielding - "I watch him a lot. He never misses a routine play. He's very fundamentally sound."

Garciaparra, though, paid Bordick an even greater compliment, saying the 10-year veteran no longer can be viewed as a traditional, light-hitting shortstop.

"He's not just somebody with a glove," Garciaparra said. "He'll hit his home runs, and he'll drive the ball. He does all that, too."

Bordick, though, will never hit like Rodriguez, Jeter or Garciaparra, and never field like Vizquel, whom Hargrove described as "the best shortstop ever to play the game" when he selected him in 1998 over Garciaparra.

Heck, even if Torre wanted to honor Bordick the way he did Surhoff, it's doubtful that he would risk upsetting one of his own players by snubbing Jeter or risk inflaming the Yankees' rivalry with the Red Sox by snubbing Garciaparra.

Hargrove, now the Orioles' manager, was perfectly justified in selecting Vizquel in 1998. But the choice also served his self-interest, and the Red Sox fans howled that Garciaparra was more deserving.

"There are always going to be some controversial choices," Hargrove said. "I think Mike Bordick deserves to be on the All-Star team. Will he be on the All-Star team? I don't know. That's a choice I'm glad I don't have to make."

This year, the choice is Torre's. And whatever the manager decides, Bordick will remain a player's player, respected by his peers.

"Maybe Joe should pick him," Rodriguez said. "I always like to see a guy like that make it."

Numbers up

The Orioles' Mike Bordick has been among the American League's most productive shortstops this season:

Player.............. Avg...........HRs.........RBIs

Bordick............ .306...........12.......... 43

Garciaparra........ .387............6...........36

Jeter.............. .335 ...........5...........21

Rodriguez.......... .344 ..........18...........61

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