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Wednesday, November 10, 2010
NL Gold Gloves hold few surprises


In the National League, five of this year's Gold Gloves went to Cardinals and Reds, and they happen to be arrayed in and around the infield. So let's start there ...

Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo throws right-handed, but that doesn't seem to help the enemy baserunners, who attempted only eight steals -- two of them were out, six were safe -- during Arroyo's 216 innings pitched. Also, he didn't make an error. I don't know how much credit the voters gave Arroyo for the tiny number of steals against him -- they certainly never held the running game against 18-time winner Greg Maddux -- but Arroyo seems to be a solid choice.

St. Louis's Yadier Molina is more than solid. It's too early to compare Molina to Willie Mays and Ozzie Smith -- or, more to the point, Ivan Rodriguez -- but the youngest of the Catching Molina Brothers is simply the best catcher in the major leagues when it comes to shutting down the running game. And in this year's balloting for the Fielding Bible Awards, Molina was the only unanimous winner.

Frankly, St. Louis's Albert Pujols' numbers at first base this year weren't nearly as brilliant as usual. Frankly, they weren't brilliant at all. But with no real standout in the National League -- unless you count Ike Davis, and nobody's counting the Mets for much of anything in 2010 -- it's hard to argue with Pujols as the default choice. Particularly considering how many times he's been passed over in the past.

Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips is a good second baseman. Not a great second baseman, probably. But a good second baseman, good enough where you really can't be upset when he wins a Gold Glove. This is his second Gold Glove, though. Meanwhile, Chase Utley -- who merely had yet another phenomenal season at second base -- still has not won even one Gold Glove. Granted, Utley played only 114 games at second this year. But he was still saved more runs than anybody else in the league.

The selection of Cincinnati's Scott Rolen is ... well, it's unfortunate. Not for Rolen, who picks up his eighth Gold Glove (and first since 2006). But unfortunate mostly for the credibility of the voters, who somehow missed that Ryan Zimmerman deserved to win his second straight Gold Glove. Did the voters really choose the 35-year-old Rolen instead of the 25-year-old Zimmerman because Zimmerman made a few more errors than Rolen? (Yes, that's a rhetorical question. But the answer is probably yes, they really did.)

We can finally leave the National League Central ... though maybe we shouldn't. I would have voted (and did, in the Fielding Bible balloting) for St. Louis's Brendan Ryan at shortstop; with Jack Wilson on the shelf for most of the season, I believe that Ryan was the best shortstop in the majors. But Troy Tulowitzki's obviously an outstanding shortstop, and this shouldn't be his first Gold Glove.

Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez pretty obviously won the Gold Glove with his bat. He deserves some credit for playing all three outfield positions, but there's not much evidence that he played any of them particularly well. Let alone brilliantly. Maybe Gonzalez would have been more impressive if he'd stayed in one place long enough to get comfortable. But they probably shouldn't hand out Gold Gloves based on maybes.

Philadelphia's Shane Victorino has a wonderful nickname (The Flyin' Hawaiian) and he's won a couple of Gold Gloves before, which apparently is enough for a third. Well, that and the fact that 2010 wasn't a great year for National League outfielders. The voters could have gone for Angel Pagan, except he's a Met. They could have gone for Tony Gwynn, except he didn't play every day. They could have gone for Andres Torres, except he played somewhere different every day. They could have gone for Marlon Byrd, except he's built like Kirby Puckett but isn't Kirby Puckett. So they went for Victorino, again. Maybe next year, fellas ...

Fortunately, they did go for Houston's speedy Michael Bourn, who deserves his second straight Gold Glove and will probably keep winning them as long as he hits enough to stay in the lineup.

Summing up ... No major errors by the National League voters this time around. But then, it's hard to really screw this up, because usually your eyes will give you a pretty good idea of who the good fielders are. Unless you're watching the shortstop in pinstripes.