Young another bad Gold Glove choice

November, 6, 2008
Yesterday in this space, I wondered: Could the Gold Glove voters -- the managers and the coaches -- in the American League be as foolish as the National League voters, who somehow decided Nate McLouth was one of their league's three best outfielders?

Fear not, sports fans. The AL awards are out , and the voters came up with a whopper of their own …

In 2003, Mike Mussina won his sixth Gold Glove. He also won 17 games that season. Since then, he hadn't won more than 15 games in a season or any Gold Gloves. Until 2008, when he won 20 games and his seventh Gold Glove. Coincidence? You decide. My Fielding Bible vote went to Kenny Rogers, who did win a real Gold Glove in 2006. Mussina was good this season. He's always good. But there was nothing about his performance (and there hasn't been since 2003) that screamed, "Gold Glove!"

At catcher, Joe Mauer is a solid choice. I would have voted for Jose Molina, just ahead of Mauer. But Molina started only 81 games behind the plate while Mauer started 135. That's a huge difference and does give me second thoughts about Molina.

The Gold Glove voters deserve some credit for rewarding Carlos Pena, who had a fine season in the field. My choice would have been Lyle Overbay, who was just as good as Pena this season and has a stronger track record (suggesting a higher level of true excellence). But Pena is fine.

Dustin Pedroia is not the best second baseman in the AL. Mark Ellis is the best. But Ellis started only 114 games this season, and Pedroia hit like blazes while starting 145 games. Also, he's pretty good with the glove. Not the best Gold Glove choice, but not a poor one, and certainly consistent with the history of the award: Good Fielder + Great Hitter = Gold Glove.

I'm afraid the voters don't have the same excuse at shortstop. Michael Young (this year's choice) and Derek Jeter are two of the worst everyday shortstops in recent history. And yet, Young and Jeter now have captured four of the past five AL Gold Gloves. Honestly, this is pretty mind-blowing (unless you've been paying attention to the Gold Glove results for the past few years, in which case, it should be pretty hard to blow your mind). From 2004 through 2007, Young was roughly the 30th-best shortstop in the majors. Over those four years, he was roughly 100 plays worse than the average major league shortstop. This season, he improved some and might have cost his team only 10 hits rather than 20 or 30.

Sure, it might have been a one-season fluke, but you have to give the guy credit for doing better. You don't have to give him an award suggesting he's the top defensive shortstop in the AL. Look, it's not just me and a bunch of sabermetric whack jobs. Here's a bit of Lone Star Ball's Adam Morris on Young's new-found honor:

    However, the other thing that this would end up doing is making it harder, one would think, to sell the idea of Young changing positions. I think most of us acknowledge he's a liability in the field at the position, and needs to move … but selling the idea of moving him, even next offseason, if he's just a year away from winning a gold glove, would seem to be even harder.

Indeed. The Yankees have been stuck with the same petard. No, they probably wouldn't have moved Jeter off shortstop anyway. But those three Gold Gloves didn't help. As for Young, it's actually not hard to figure out how he won. He had another big year with the bat (which voters like), and he led the AL in fielding percentage (which they absolutely love). My friends, I give you the AL's Nate McLouth.

Rounding out the infield, we've got Seattle's Adrian Beltre, who had another great season at third and might be the most deserving of this year's Gold Glove winners.

In the outfield, I'm afraid the voters completely wimped out, picking the same three as last season. Two of those, Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki, now have run their Gold Glove streaks to eight apiece. The third outfielder is Grady Sizemore, who won his first Gold Glove last season.

Hunter is a solid choice. He's not the Willie Mays everyone makes him out to be, but he's still an excellent center fielder. I'm not wild about Sizemore, but he had a pretty good season and the ladies -- "Grady's Ladies," that is -- like him. Ichiro is not a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder anymore, though. Granted, there weren't a lot of great ones in the AL, but Minnesota's Carlos Gomez might have been the best outfielder on the planet this season. And while I know he was a near-rookie, I also know people were talking about his defense for months, so it's not like the managers and the coaches who vote don't know he's great. Or rather, that he's got a great reputation.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that the managers and the coaches just don't give a damn about the process. It's a strange thing, to care more than the actual voters about the Gold Gloves. But year after year, it sure seems like we do.



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