Giants snare three Awards; nine first-timers honored
By Doug Miller
Baseball has become a game where more and more, an integral part of the offense is a good defense.
On Tuesday, the best fielders in the business were honored with the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, the first in a series of honors that recognize defensive excellence in 2016.
There will be more defensive hardware to be handed out this awards season. Fans can already have a say in voting for the MLB Awards, which have two key defensive categories -- Best Defensive Player and Best Play, Defense. Voting will remain open until 2 p.m. ET on Friday, and winners will be announced on MLB Network on Friday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m.
For now, though, we have the prestigious Gold Gloves, and the winners included some usual suspects and some first-time surprises.
The big upset came at catcher in the National League, where Buster Posey of the Giants broke Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina's eight-year stranglehold on the honor. Posey, who led NL catchers in defensive runs saved with 12 in 2016, beat out Molina and Brewers (and later Rangers) catcher Jonathan Lucroy for the honor, the first Gold Glove of his decorated career.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who led all NL first basemen in defensive runs saved with 11 in 2016, took home his first career Gold Glove, besting the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt and Wil Myers of the Padres.
"It's amazing," Rizzo said. "It means a lot. I know my dad is going to be extremely proud. He always gets on me for my defense, so this ranks right up there with any award I've gotten.
"Whether we're hitting and scoring 10 runs a game or we're grinding at the plate, we know we can always play good defense and we can control the preparation for that."
The other Cubs representative on the Gold Gloves squad for 2016 is right fielder Jason Heyward, who won it three times previously while with the Braves and Cardinals and led all NL right fielders with 14 defensive runs saved this year. Heyward beat out Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez and the Braves' Nick Markakis for the honor.
The NL winners were rounded out by D-backs pitcher Zack Greinke, who won his third career Gold Glove and first with Arizona by beating out Cubs righty Jake Arrieta and Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright.
In the American League, Gold Gloves were spread out between steady veteran previous winners and exciting newcomers.
Catcher Salvador Perez on the Royals won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove, beating out Carlos Perez of the Angels and James McCann of the Tigers, while Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre took home his third career award at the hot corner, beating out Manny Machado of the Orioles and Kyle Seager of the Mariners in part because he tied for the AL lead in defensive runs saved at third base with 15.
In the flashy first-timer category, say hello once again to a face we've become very familiar with over the course of the postseason. Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor won his first Gold Glove, beating out tough competition in Andrelton Simmons of the Angels and Jose Iglesias of the Tigers.
"I can't wait to show it off to my pops," Lindor said. "The instincts I have, my hands and everything, I owe it to him and my brother and my cousin, the three guys who helped me the most when I was growing up."
Good hands and good instincts are vital for Gold Glove winners, and Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays personifies those qualities, even though he only played in 105 games this year because of injury. Kiermaier, the reigning winner of the AL Platinum Glove, representing the best overall defender in his league, won once again in center field, this time beating out Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox and Kevin Pillar of the Blue Jays.
"This is an award that's very special to me," Kiermaier said. "Winning this award last year and getting the call again this year was a feeling like none other. I'm very happy. My offseason's already made. … This is something I had my sights on."
Right fielder Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, a leading AL MVP Award candidate, won his first Gold Glove, beating out the AL assist leader in White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton and also Astros star George Springer. In left field in the AL, Brett Gardner of the Yankees pulled off an upset of sorts, beating out four-time winner Alex Gordon of the Royals and Colby Rasmus of the Astros.
Another unexpected result in the AL came at first base, where Mitch Moreland of the Rangers won his first career Gold Glove by unseating last year's winner, Eric Hosmer of the Royals, and topping Chris Davis of the Orioles, in part because of his league-leading Ultimate Zone Rating at the position.
Second base in the AL was a clash of veterans, with the Tigers' Ian Kinsler beating out Robinson Cano of the Mariners and Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox to win the first Gold Glove of his excellent career.
"It means a lot," Kinsler said. "It's one of those trophies, I saw [past winners] Roberto Alomar Jr. and Omar Vizquel and Ken Griffey Jr. multiple times as a kid when I was growing up, and it's such a beautiful trophy, one of those trophies you dream of winning as a kid.
"It's nice to get rewarded for the work that I do."
Next we'll see who wins the Platinum Glove Awards, which give fans a chance to have their voices heard in the selection of both leagues' best overall defensive players. The voting will conclude Wednesday night, and the winners will be announced during Friday night's Gold Glove Ceremony. Last year's Platinum Glove winners were Molina in the NL and Kiermaier in the AL.