Clean start costs valued dirty uniform

July 29, 2000|By John Eisenberg

NO ONE SAID this was going to be easy.

Mike Bordick was maybe the last Oriole anyone wanted to see go, a heady, hard-working throwback to the Oriole Magic days.

But those days were over a long time ago, and if today's lamentable Orioles are going to get any younger, faster and better, they have to make trades such as the one they made yesterday, sending Bordick to the Mets for four players.

It's a good deal for Bordick and a good deal for the Orioles, the kind they have refrained from making under owner Peter G. Angelos, leaving them stuck with one of the game's oldest, slowest, best-paid and losingest teams.

It's years late in coming, but at least the club finally pulled the plug on a losing season and pulled the trigger on a major midseason deal.

How about making a couple more before Monday's trading deadline?

So what if it sends a signal to the fans that the Orioles are no longer trying to win this season? Like, duh. It's been obvious for months that they had no chance. Anyone who believed otherwise was delusional.

And so what if it signals that even next season might be tough, that the club is embarking on a new course, away from a strict reliance on veterans and free agents? It's about time, isn't it? Just check the standings. The Orioles are one of the worst teams in the major leagues. They need to be blown up and put back together.

The alternative was to sign Bordick, 35, to a long-term contract instead of dealing him, a move no one would have complained about; whether you're going young or trying to win now, he's the kind of player you can build around, a defensive anchor with a peerless work ethic and a much-improved bat.

He will go down in Orioles history as the guy who replaced Cal Ripken at shortstop, a tough job that could have swallowed him up, but didn't, because of how he was and who he was, a Baseball Jones who deserved respect.

He was an Oriole the fans could root for, a selfless, late-developing, dirty-uniform guy who made brilliant plays in the field; bought a house and moved his family to Baltimore when he signed here; and unlike many of his teammates, was always pleasant and generous in the clubhouse.

That he will be sorely missed goes without saying. But he's also going to a better, happier place, joining a winning team in the playoff hunt. Good for him. He deserves it.

Yes, there's a chance the Orioles could re-sign him as a free agent after this season, as they did with Harold Baines after trading him to Cleveland last August. But don't count on it. The Mets wouldn't give up four players, including one promising pitcher, unless they believed they could lock him up for several years.

Although it's possible Bordick could go free if the Mets pursue Alex Rodriguez, at this point, it's best to consider Bordick an ex-Oriole.

And as distasteful at that might be today, in the big picture, it's a step the club needed to take.

Given that they need fewer 35-year-olds, and that they could get four players for a veteran who had little value a year ago and whose contract is up after this season, it was absolutely the right move to make.

"You don't part with people like Mike Bordick easily," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said yesterday, "but to get good players, you have to give up good players."

That raises an obvious and important question: Did the Orioles get good players in return?

Some are going to wonder, as there is no big-name player in the package and the only bona fide major-leaguer is Melvin Mora, 28, a utility player who is hitting .260 this season.

But no complaints here. Remember, as valuable as Bordick is, a 35-year-old simply isn't going to command that much in return. Factoring that into the equation, the Orioles did get what they have needed, some interesting, young players.

The most interesting is Lesli Brea, 21, a hard-throwing pitcher from the Dominican Republic who had struck out 284 in 228 innings in the minor leagues coming into this season. He's at least a year away, and although he's a starter now, don't be surprised if the Orioles try to turn him into a closer.

Brea was obviously the key to the deal for the Orioles, but they also got Mike Kinkade, 27, who can play the outfield and first base and was moved to catcher this season. A .330 hitter in the minors, he is headed to Rochester and, if anything, might serve as a wake-up call for Jayson Werth, the catching prospect who is struggling at Bowie this year.

The fourth player in the deal is Patrick Gorman, 22, another pitcher with more strikeouts than innings in the minors. Bring it on.

Only time will tell if anything valuable comes out of the four-player package, but even if nothing does, the fact that the Orioles even made the deal is a step in the right direction.

Angelos has always refused to give up on a season, fearful of losing fans. The policy has cost them a handful of prospects who would have given them a younger cornerstone now, more hop in their step.

That had to end. When a team sinks as the Orioles have sunk over the past three years, they're dumb if they don't deal for the future. The present certainly isn't worth preserving. Even when the present includes players as admirable as Mike Bordick.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.