Bordick gold would be O's silver lining

September 17, 2002|By Laura Vecsey

IT FIGURES that a class act like Mike Bordick would demur at the suggestion that this year, the way he has played shortstop for the Orioles, he should win the American League Gold Glove.

Yes, it's nice that his manager, Mike Hargrove, has commenced a vigilant campaign on his behalf, Bordick says.

Yes, it's nice to be mentioned in the same breath as Omar "Eight In A Row and Counting" Vizquel.

Bordick, however, would prefer that this time of year, when divisional and wild-card races make baseball king in some cities, he was playing for more than individual honors.

"It's been hard the past few years here. When I first got here in '97, I thought we were the best team in baseball. This year we started to make some progress in the right direction, but we all play for a chance to win a ring," Bordick said.

Guess what?

With the Orioles light-years from a World Series ring and with the team having crushed any hope of allowing its dedicated fans to root for the team's formerly stated goal of a .500 season, Bordick is it.

He is the man.

He is the cause.

He is the raison d'etre - which is French for saying Bordick and his American League record of consecutive games without an error make watching the Orioles this otherwise dead September a vaguely enticing proposition.

Last night, after a 2-5 swing through New York and Boston, the home team trudged back to Camden Yards for the start of an eight-game stand. The Toronto Blue Jays were in the house - and that was about it.

The turnstile crowd was thin, a result not only of the Orioles' 19 losses over the previous 22 games, but also Yom Kippur and the Monday Night Football escapades of Steve Spurrier's Fun 'N' Gun squad 35 miles to the south.

The sea of green seats did not discount the merits of the mini-drama being played out on the reddish-brown infield dirt of Oriole Park.

That would be Bordick, who in the second inning spun to his left to backhand a grounder off the bat of Jose Cruz. Bordick then threw cleanly to Jerry Hairston for the forceout of Carlos Delgado.

The official scorecard read 6-4 for the fifth out of the game, and Bordick's night had officially begun. By the time the game ended, the Orioles had lost their 20th in 23 games but Bordick had extended his AL-record errorless streak to 98 games. On Friday in Boston, he broke Cal Ripken's record (96).

Having already broken Ripken's record for errorless chances (429) in August and extending it to 493 last night, next up for Bordick is the major-league record of 101 errorless games by a shortstop, held by Rey Ordonez of the New York Mets.

It's a mark Bordick could hit this week - a feat that should make it easy for the Gold Glove ballots to say Bordick was the best at his position in 2002.

Or will it?

Around these parts, they still talk about the last time an Orioles shortstop was denied his rightful reward for non-flashy but near flawless defense.

In 1990, the year Chicago White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen won the American League Gold Glove, Ripken made only three errors. In other words, Ripken was robbed.

Definitely.

The story still stands.

Could the same thing happen to Bordick, who, so far, has only one error this season? Vizquel, meanwhile, has six.

"I think there's been talk of [me winning the Gold Glove] before, but I've played shortstop 12 years along with Omar. It's an honor to be talked about though. I've been playing the position so long and these days, there are so many good players. [Miguel] Tejada, [Derek] Jeter, A-Rod," Bordick said.

In addition to the wizardry of Vizquel, Bordick now must live with the new standards set by the big guns at his position. Not that the good glove/big bat-type shortstop exemplified by MVP candidates Alex Rodriguez and Tejada troubles Bordick.

"Not at all, because it's great for the game," Bordick said.

"It shows how baseball's evolving and how great the athletes have become. Cal, obviously, was one of the first true big men to play short and have the ability and range to do the things that shortstops need to do. Then this next group came on who can make the defensive plays and hit for power and average. I think it's great for the game. I'm just glad I started to play when I did."

Bordick admitted that with a wistful, bemused grin. He has been around a pretty long time - not bad for a collegiate player who was never drafted and who was only signed by Oakland because a scout went to see another guy in Cape Cod and instead signed Bordick.

Ever since then, the shortstop has been knocking at the door of baseball's promised land.

In 1990, he played in three World Series games as a defensive replacement for the Oakland Athletics, who lost to the Cincinnati Reds.

In '97, Bordick signed with the Orioles, survived the pressure of "replacing Cal," only to see his World Series-favored new team fall to Cleveland in the AL Championship Series.

In 2000, when the Mets traded for him to aid their push for a World Series, Bordick suffered through an injury and a slump and saw the Mets fall to the Yankees in the tabloid-hyped Subway Series.

Since coming back to Baltimore in 2001, the 37-year-old adjusted his mind-set and made a commitment to helping the Orioles in their alleged youth movement.

His had been the career of an underdog. He is the quiet, driven, good-guy professional for whom greatness has been his consistency, his reliability.

This is why, this week, the Orioles are worth keeping an eye on: In the quagmire at the end of a losing season, Mike Bordick is quietly extending himself into spectacular territory.

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