I have been putting off this post for a couple of weeks. It's about Mike Bordick's performance on MASN as an analyst on Orioles games.
It started with a colleague, who is usually a keen observer of sports media, casually stopping me in the newsroom to say, "Z, you gotta write about Bordick."
As he said it, he shook his head side to side, winced and gestured with two thumbs down.
So, I started watching and listening to the likable former Orioles shortstop. Instead of jumping into print with what I saw after a couple of games though, I also started asking other media types who watch a lot of Orioles baseball about their impressions of him.
Representative of what I mainly heard was this: "Geez, Z, you're not going to rip Bordick, are you? Come on, don't do it. Chelsea Clinton, fine. Keith Olbermann, fine. Sean Hannity, even better. Dan Dierdorf, take his head off -- even if we are months away from CBS doing a Ravens game. But not Bordick. Everybody loves the guy."
And so, I come not to rip Bordick, but to offer a few observations and ask what viewers think of him. I think he has a lot of promise, mainly because many fans already seem to like his persona, but I also think he has a steep learning curve ahead of him if he want to be a major leaguer in the booth. Being "nice" about his performance and overlooking his flaws isn't going to help him get better. I am sure he doesn't do that with the Orioles infielding prospects he still coaches part-time in the minors.
For a while, I was thinking Bordick's biggest problem is that he's not Jim Palmer, the veteran analyst with whom Bordick splits the season of MASN broadcasts.
As I have said for years, Palmer is a superb analyst, one of the best anywhere in cable or network TV. He was terrific when he did network at ABC Sports, and he has only gotten better since. Baltimore fans are blessed to have a guy like Palmer doing local games.
So, compared to Palmer almost anyone would seem weak -- especially someone just starting out in the broadcast booth like Bordick.
Besides, Bordick was a position player, and both Palmer and the late Mike Flanagan, whom Bordick replaces, were pitchers. Not just pitchers, but cerebral ones, each in their own way. Listening to Palmer go stream of consciousness when his thoughts on pitching strategy in the game at hand merge with memories and anecdotes from his career is an absolute delight.
But not being Palmer goes deeper than simply not being as experienced, skilled or even as thoughtful as Palmer in the booth. Whereas Bordick seems like a modest guy, Palmer is, well, some might say, the opposite of that.
Here's what I'm saying: Everyone is probably right about Bordick being such a nice guy, but right now, that might also be the biggest part of his problem. He's too nice, too modest, and not egotistical enough.
He needs more ego. I am not saying he should try imitate Palmer. (When it comes to ego, who among us could? kidding - sort of.)
But informed attitude and channeled ego translates into a sense of authority, and that is what Bordick lacks. Many of his statements of analysis sound tentative. Some even sound like they should have a question mark at the end of them. And those are the ones he does make.
He also needs to be more aggressive in terms of air time. Too often during the Oakland series, for example, after a key play, there was dead air where the analysis should have been. Gary Thorne, the play-by-play announcer, seems to really like Bordick, and quickly jumped in each time, usually asking the kind of question that would elicit the analysis that was missing in the moment.
But unless he's going to let Thorne carry him forever, Bordick needs to be, well, pushier. He has to seem as certain as Palmer that the world is waiting for his insight -- and be eager to give it. Even if it sometimes means stepping on the play-by-play guy's banter.
There are other issues. I don't know the extent of Bordick's sense of baseball history, but I do feel like Palmer is a historian of the game. In my notes from recent viewing, I have four stars alongside anecdotes Palmer told about Bob Feller, Hank Aaron and Mark McLemore. Using baseball lore and memory to fill during the slower portions of long games is something Palmer does as well as anyone in sports broadcasting.
I sense that Bordick loves the game as much or more than Palmer. If he has that kind of baseball memory, he needs to share more of it with viewers.
So, what do you think? Really, let's have a sane (not sportstalk snarky) discussion about this, and try and help Bordick be a better analyst. Or, if you prefer, color commentator -- a term I don't particularly care for.
One thing: Please don't tell me we shouldn't judge Bordick because he is "still learning" the job.
If he is only learning, he should be sitting in a broadcast booth in Norfolk or Bowie where the guys who are "still learning" to play in the major leagues are working on their games. I mean it.
For the first time in more than decade, it looks like the Orioles have a lineup and pitching staff that isn't dominated by guys who are "still learning." Fans deserve the same from the folks presenting the games -- no matter how nice they might be.