Retirement at 37 is chance Bordick might handle, too

ORIOLES PLUS

Kids growing, contract ending, his future unclear

September 01, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Ask Mike Bordick about retirement, and the response doesn't just come from a 37-year-old shortstop with a record-setting errorless streak, it comes from a 37-year-old father with four children who are growing up fast.

"My daughter turns 9 this fall," Bordick said, "and that time goes by pretty quick. The next thing you know she's going to be a teen-ager, and she won't even care what Dad says, you know what I mean? So my window of opportunity isn't that big."

Ask Bordick about retirement, and he says it's going to take some thought this offseason. He'll discuss it with his wife, Monica, and he'll discuss it with the kids.

The family lives in Ruxton, and that will play an important part. Ultimately, Bordick's decision could come down to a simple question: Do the Orioles want him back?

"I don't know that I would play anywhere else, to tell you the truth," he said. "I think that would be harder, family-wise, to have to say, `Sorry kids. I've got to go away for the summer, instead of just a road trip.' "

The issue will come to a head in early November.

Bordick is in the final season of his two-year, $9.5 million contract, so he is eligible for free agency. The Orioles will have exclusive negotiating rights with Bordick for a 15-day period after the World Series.

In case Bordick picks retirement, the Orioles have scouted several shortstops that they think might be available this offseason, including Kansas City's Neifi Perez, San Diego's Deivi Cruz and Royce Clayton of the Chicago White Sox.

But Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he doesn't think it's time for Bordick to retire, just yet.

"If Mike chooses to play on, I think he's still a productive player, and if I were him, I would continue," Hargrove said. "I like Mike Bordick a lot. He brings a lot to the park every day. He adds a whole lot, and we have been a better team this year when he's been healthy and in the lineup."

Bordick came into the season with some uncertainty, not knowing how well he'd be able to play defense after undergoing major shoulder surgery in August 2001.

It almost seems silly now considering his accomplishments.

Bordick has had 472 chances to make an error this season.

How many errors has he made? One.

"He's as good as I've ever seen," Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston said. "I've never seen a guy who, when the ball's hit to him, it's an out every time. He's automatic."

On April 10, Bordick pulled up a bit and mishandled a grounder by Tampa Bay's Greg Vaughn. Since then, Bordick has gone 85 games without an error and successfully converted 447 consecutive chances. Cal Ripken held the previous record for major-league shortstops, with 428 error-free chances.

"I think with things like that, there's some luck involved," Bordick said.

"The scorekeeper or a first baseman picking a ball out of the dirt."

Though he hates talking about it or drawing attention to it, Bordick called the official scorer in Arizona after he mishandled a grounder on June 18.

Usually when a player calls the scorekeeper, he's hoping to pad his own statistics. Bordick was actually trying to get a base hit changed to an error, in part so an earned run wouldn't have been charged to Orioles reliever B.J. Ryan.

Offensively, it's been a bit of a struggle for Bordick. He had the worst April of his career, batting .137, and after missing a month with a fractured right kneecap, he is batting .237.

"I haven't been as consistent," he said, "as I had hoped."

But when Bordick reviews his season, he doesn't look so much at his individual performance as he does his place within a team that has shown marked improvement. "On the whole," he said, "this year has been very rewarding."

Ask Bordick about retirement, and sometimes he's downright stumped. Last week, he was sitting in the visiting clubhouse in Texas before what could have been the final series of his career. A strike date loomed, and it threatened to wipe out the rest of the season.

Bordick said he hadn't thought much about that potentially being the end, but he admitted he would have probably been more sentimental if he had known that it was.

"I haven't really dwelled on it," he said, "so maybe internally, I'm thinking something else. If this is the last three games, shoot, I've played a long time, and even if I was done yesterday, I'm very happy with my career."

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