Cooperstown came calling on Mike Bordick at the end of last season, asking for his glove, which had set a major league record for errorless games (110) and chances (543) by a shortstop. Bordick, an unassuming sort who ably perpetuated the Baltimore Orioles' outstanding tradition at the position, gladly gave it up for posterity.
So when Bordick botched a ball Wednesday -- a tough play, granted -- in his first game of the 2003 season, on his second chance of that game, naturally, he thought to himself, "I never should have given them my glove."
But somehow, it was fitting that the errorless-games streak would end at 110, the whole thing contained in his final season with the Orioles, a season in which he was an everyday player, rather than going with him to Toronto, where he is now a backup on the Blue Jays.
"In a way, it's probably better this way," said Bordick, 37. "Last year, being able to do that was fun. I was glad I did that as an everyday player and to do it through the course of a season, rather than be a backup and have an asterisk next to it because I wasn't playing every day. Last year was just a career year. A lot of breaks went my way."
On the play that ended the streak Wednesday night, Bordick failed to come up with a soft, sinking liner near his feet off the bat of Bubba Trammell of the New York Yankees.
"Right off the bat, I thought I'd be able to catch it in the air," he said. "Then I realized I wasn't going to be able to get to it, so I took a step back to get it on the short-hop. Unfortunately, it stayed down. The worst part is that [the Yankees] ended up getting a two-run homer because of it."
Asked if he would have expected a more generous ruling from the official scorer in Toronto, given the historic impact of his streak, Bordick quickly interjected, "It was a play I should have made."
However, the play was eerily similar to Bordick's closest call in 2002.
In Arizona in June, with his streak at 51 games, Bordick failed to make a play on another sinking liner off the bat of Quinton McCracken. The official scorer ruled it a hit, despite Bordick's belief that he should have made the play.
"It's funny. That play in Arizona, they ruled it a hit, but I thought it should have been an error," Bordick said. "It's weird how it comes full circle: the streak ends on the same play that should have ended it last year."
The fact that Bordick is even playing this season as a backup for the Blue Jays, rather than as the Orioles' starter, is still a point of contention among fans and some Orioles players.
After initially contemplating retirement, Bordick decided he wanted to return to the Orioles in 2003. But the team showed only mild interest, and offered only $1.5 million, a huge pay cut from his $5 million salary in 2002.
Bordick rejected the offer, mostly out of principle, and signed instead with the Blue Jays for $1 million.
"It was a little frustrating," Bordick said, "because from all indications, it seemed like they wanted me back. I thought I could still play, and I didn't want to regret not giving it a shot. But I'm not disappointed at all. I'm thankful for the opportunity with Toronto. It's good to be on a team like the Blue Jays with a good group of young players. The future is nothing but bright for them."
Although the end of Bordick's streak drew little attention this week, even in Toronto, connoisseurs of defense used the occasion to marvel one last time at the feat. "It's an unbelievable feat, just awesome," said Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel, the only shortstop in history with a higher career fielding percentage (.984) than Bordick (.982), entering this season.
"He's so solid."
Searching for Shortstops
Bordick is one of several shortstops mentioned as possible trade targets of the New York Yankees, who might be looking for a replacement for Derek Jeter for at least a month. Jeter suffered a dislocated shoulder on Opening Day.
Other possible targets include Montreal's Orlando Cabrera, Cleveland's Vizquel and -- perhaps the most far-fetched -- Oakland's Miguel Tejada. Even though the A's probably won't re-sign Tejada after the season, they are not going to trade the reigning AL MVP when the team has an excellent chance of winning it all this year.
And Vizquel, who has full no-trade privileges by virtue of his service time, already has said he would not accept a trade. For now, expect the Yankees to stay with rookie Erick Almonte in Jeter's place. . . .
San Diego Padres third baseman Phil Nevin predicted a long and painful comeback for Jeter.
"There's no getting ahead of schedule in rehabbing a shoulder dislocation," said Nevin, who dislocated his on March 7 and is still weeks away from beginning rehabilitation. "They told me up front: no contact for six months. I had surgery, but there are a heck of a lot of ifs in this type of injury. You can't hurry it."
Park Gets Royal Treatment
The Texas Rangers are going above and beyond in an effort to keep right-hander Chan Ho Park comfortable. They brought in Chad Kreuter, who caught Park with the Los Angeles Dodgers, to be his personal catcher, and moved him to the second game of the season when he begged off the Opening Day assignment.
Park, who signed a five-year, $65 million contract before the 2002 season, promptly gave up six runs to Anaheim in 22/3 innings in his 2003 debut. . . .
New Florida Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez committed three passed balls in his first two games with his new team, and was blasted for his game-calling by Marlins Opening Day starter Josh Beckett.
However, one team during the final week of spring training clocked one of Rodriguez's throws to second base at 1.67 seconds from his glove to the bag, an astounding time. "I'd never seen anybody faster than 1.75 in my life," said one staff member. . . .
One of Ned Yost's first acts as Milwaukee's new skipper was to move the coaching staff's lockers from a private room into the middle of the Brewers' clubhouse, prompting this comment from Brewers pitcher Curtis Leskanic:
"I kind of like having them in here. It makes me feel a lot better about my body."