Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mike Bordick is an Oriole Hall of Famer; Matt Palmer Doesn't Like It One Bit

Yet another double play turned...ho-hum...
Mike Bordick was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame last week. I was sketching out a post about Bordick and his Oriole career when I saw this article by CSN's Matt Palmer (h/t to Camden Chat for the link.)

When it came to 1990s defensive shortstops, few were better than Mike Bordick...

And, yet, when the Orioles announced he had been elected him to the team's Hall of Fame, more than a few eyebrows were raised. The committee that chooses the Hall of Fame inductees is made up of Oriole Advocate members, front office personnel, media members and members of the Orioles Hall of Fame. Those elected must get at least 60 percent of the votes cast.

Knowing all the people that would be involved in such a vote, it's surprising Bordick was elected.

I don't know. I wasn't that shocked. There are no specific criteria published on the the Oriole Advocate website so we are left to examine the list of players who are already there and draw our own conclusions about what kind of player would merit selection into the Orioles Hall of Fame. Given the list of players who have been inducted, it is not exclusively a hall based on outstanding offensive numbers alone.

The list of players in the Orioles Hall of Fame ordered by WAR and compiled through the Play Index:

Cal Ripken, Jr. 89.9
Brooks Robinson 69.1
Jim Palmer 63.5
Eddie Murray 54.8
Boog Powell 35.9
Frank Robinson 34.4
Paul Blair 32.7
Mark Belanger  32.6
Bobby Grich 32.6
Brady Anderson 30.8
Ken Singleton 29.4
Chris Hoiles 23.4
Al Bumbry 22.3
Dave McNally  22.1
Doug DeCinces 21.3
Rick Dempsey 20.3
Mike Flanagan 20.2
Milt Pappas 19.9
Don Buford 19.0
Davey Johnson 17.6
Scott McGregor 17.5
B.J. Surhoff 16.7
Mike Boddicker 15.9
Mike Cuellar  15.9
Steve Barber  15.6
Jim Gentile 15.4
Hoyt Wilhelm  14.7
Luis Aparicio 14.5
Mike Bordick 13.1
Gregg Olson 12.8
Hal Brown 12.6
Gus Triandos 12.3
Stu Miller 9.4
Dick Hall 8.7
Harold Baines 8.5
Gene Woodling  8.4
Dennis Martinez 8.2
Tippy Martinez 6.3
Elrod Hendricks 6.2
Eddie Watt 5.1
Lee May         2.5
Billy Hunter   -1.4

Bordick is hardly the worst choice if you want to judge a player by his play on the field. And he is hardly lowering the standards. His bat was not great but he was a superior defender for several seasons.

Reportedly, Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar did not get enough votes, but both were on the ballot. Say what you will about Palmeiro's turbulent final year in Baltimore, but he contributed far more to the organization during his time than Bordick. Even though Alomar played just three seasons, the minimum number allowed to be eligible, he also contributed mightily offensively and defensively during his time with the Orioles, which included two postseason runs and the best Orioles teams since 1983.

Rafael Palmeiro belongs...but again, I really don't know the criteria. I am guessing that, like the regular Hall of Fame, Palmeiro is being punished on moral grounds surrounding his use (or perceived use) of steroids and lying (or perceived lying) to Congress about it. That's problematic for any team at this point and he will likely have to wait awhile.

Roberto Alomar would be a fine induction as well. But he did only spend three seasons as an Oriole and had that nasty spitting incident. He will probably also get in at some point but given his short time in Baltimore, I'm not that surprised. And wasn't Bordick on that '97 team with Alomar? How come Bordick doesn't get some credit for that too?

He batted .260 lifetime and with the Orioles. The one season in which he made an All-Star game wearing orange and black was 2000, when he batted .297 during the first 100 games of the season. He was then traded to the Mets, but returned to Baltimore the next season. 
He clearly found a home in Maryland and an organization where he was comfortable.

But he was never great beyond his fielding.

Well, yeah, that's true. But look at that list. Mark Belanger, Luis Aparicio, Elrod Hendricks, Gus Trianados, Rick Dempsey...there are a lot of guys in the OHoF who were great with the glove and light with the bat.

And the last time I checked, fielding still matters in baseball. Bordick had three of the greatest fielding seasons in Oriole history and was always very, very good. Harold Baines or Lee May were not penalized for being one-dimensional offensive players. Neither should Bordick be seen as sub par baseball player.

Palmer is really hung up on Bordick's bat but you have to know that his bat was never what made him great. If Bordick is considered OHoF worthy, it would absolutely have to be on the strength of his glove, not his offensive prowess. Palmer can't be surprised at that.

Rarely was he a player fans flocked to see. If they did notice him, they went home saying, "You know, that Bordick's a solid player."

That really defines Bordick's career. Solid. That's not meant to diminish his incredible play at shortstop, a grueling position in a marathon sport. 
But, as the team has struggled in recent years, players who had "pretty good" careers with the team are now next to greats such as Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver and Eddie Murray. Granted, not every player is going to rise to that level. 
But, it should be harder to get in the door.

And Palmer is really hung up on the notion that the OHoF is just for players who were the caliber of Ripken, Palmer and Murray. But it's not and never has been. Eddie Watt. Dennis Martinez. Lee May. B.J. Surhoff. Gene Woodling. Stu Miler. Scott McGregor. A bunch of guys are already there who could be described as "solid". You can feel that it should be harder to get in the door but you'd have to kick at least a few of these guys out in the process.

As currently constructed, Bordick belongs in the OHoF. And if you don't think he does, well, you ARE diminishing his incredible play at short.

Actually, Palmer listed the six Oriole players who have their numbers retired by the club in that last paragraph. Do you think he is confused? Do you think he believes they are retiring Bordick's number?

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