Are the Gold Gloves tarnished?
I do not know what to think about the recent results of the 2009 Rawlings Gold Glove awards. I guess it kind of reminds me of the days when the “cool” group in my High School used to sit on this wall outside the 100 wing of the school before and after school, and we collectively nicknamed them the “Ivy’s” since ivy clings to walls. I get that same feeling now when I first saw the list of American League Gold Glove winners.
But what I saw behind the names had an old instant of nostalgia of that long ago Southern staple,the “Good Ol’ Boys” network. For years when I was growing up here in Florida it was a wildly held political belief that some people got elected and also appointed to a high ranking position because of their friendships or political ties to a person instead of their qualifications and leadership abilities. And is some realms of the world this system is still alive and well today.
For some weird reason, I am beginning to get more of a feeling of true professionalism and in-depth analysis from the Fielding Bible Awards than from the more commercial and MLB-friendly Rawlings Gold Glove Awards. And that sentiment might be felt more and more around the Major League Baseball fan community as we see some of the old guard in baseball still hanging onto these Gold Glove awards even if their defensive skills have diminished a bit in the last season.
There has been a small group of up and coming MLB players who also produced some impressive defensive numbers and also feats this season who did not seem to get any acknowledgment on the 2009 list. At least with the Fielding Bible, they had a tremendous fight at the second base position between Adam Hill, Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley before the groups tally produced a tie between Pedroia and Hill. Because of the tie, the group used its tie-breaking format of total first place votes( 10 points) to decide the eventual winner of the award. Hill had 4 first place votes to one for Pedroia.
Of course my main concern with the Gold Gloves here might be for the third year in a row, the award has seemed to snub Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Carl Crawford. Maybe it was the ease at which Crawford seems to glide and catch difficult fly balls as they are going towards the wall or in the air. Maybe it is that with his abundance of speed you expect him to make a play like that and it takes on a more routine feel after seeing it day after day since 2001.
But maybe he might be a great poster boy to boost prop up right now to show that there might need to be some changes made within the Gold Glove voting system. As we all know by now, Crawford won his third Fielding Bible Award in 2009 for his play in leftfield. And right now the Fielding Bible actually has more of my respect because they do not bunch the outfield into a single category, but award the players in each of the three outfield defensive position for their efforts and abilities.
A good example of this is outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, who won his second Fielding Bible award in a row,but in a different position for 2009. That’s right,he won the award in 2008 as a rightfielder, and was rewarded in 2009 as the centerfielder in the Seattle Mariner’s outfield. For that reasoning alone it seems like the Fielding Bible awards excellence by position,and not by name recognition.
And I think when Rawlings officially started the Gold Glove awards back in 1957 they envisioned the competitions voting to evolve with the game and even transform to meet the ever-changing aspects of the game. But the award has now seemed to become a bit stagnant and has wielded more of a “Prom” popularity atmosphere where the popular kids are getting the Gold Glove awards, and not the deserving people also playing the game besides them.
The Gold Gloves have been viewed as the “Mount Everest” of fielding awards. That to get a spot on that exclusive roster of MLB players is a showing to the world that you have arrived, and are within the top 18 players in the Major Leagues.
But the one position on these collective teams that appear to have become muddled beyond simplicity is the outfield selection for the Gold Glove. There can be a possibility of three centerfielders winning the Gold Glove currently, and nothing can be done about it. And in 2009, two centerfielders made the list out of the possible three slots.
But a bit of controversy erupted when the AL 2009 results were announced and revealed that Baltimore centerfielder Adam Jones was the third member of the Gold Glove outfield for 2009. Now I think Jones is a great emerging star since his trade from Seattle to Baltimore a few seasons ago, but is his rise so great in 2009 that it trumped the stats and play of a player like Crawford?
And here lies the wild truth that certain players seem to be selected year after year even as their abilities start to show age and flaws in their defense. The Gold Glove award is currently voted on only by the Managers and Coaches of each individual league, and they can not vote for a member of their respective teams for the award. Maybe it is time to tweak the system a bit and make it a more universally accepted award than a glorified baseball beauty pageant.
Maybe the current system is stagnating and is quickly becoming an antiquated system to award the Major League’s best in defensive excellence. Maybe we need to inject some new blood and some extended voting members into the equation like possibly enlisting the last two seasons of Gold Glove winners to dissolve the popularity chaos for the award.
Since every MLB Manager and Coach can not vote for their own players, maybe the simple fact of adding a few more sets of eyes that see these players daily might throw some more excitement in the process and actually make this more of a “professionally-based” award than a popularity contest aka beauty pageant.
If the system was more like the Fielding bible Awards would Crawford had been selected as a Gold Glove recipient? You would think that would be an easy answer, but Jones won a Gold Glove while appearing in 36 less games than Crawford. .
But this is a “no-win” situation because we all know that the powers above (Commissioner Selig) will not entertain the notion to tweak the system and actually award the best players at their positions for the Gold Glove. And in a way that is okay. Most people have the same problems with the College Football ranking system and the eventual awarding of their seasonal seeding via the BCS formula.
Maybe Rawlings needs to look at the Fielding Bible a bit closer for possible inspiration and the essence of wanting to change the rules. Because in the Fielding Bible system, the award is voted on by people outside the influence of Major League Baseball. Think about it, a total of 10 baseball eggheads/analysts make their random scaling from 1-10 for every spot on the field. And the outfield is broken up into their three positions and awarded accordingly.
Such baseball gurus like Baseball Info Solutions John Dewan, ESPN Baseball expert Peter Gammons, Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated and the Kansas City Star
and of course the Stat brain child, Bill James use the same 10-point system instituted by Major League Baseball to eventually pick the Major League Baseball MVP award to tally their personal votes for the Fielding Bible Award. And maybe that is a direction that the Gold Gloves should embrace as a model for change.
By adding outside influences and maybe even the past two seasons award winners into the mix, it could become more universally accepted for its fair and concise measuring of players abilities and achievements. Right now the Gold Gloves is a popularity system that is rewarding name worthy recipients than qualified winners.
And a perfect example of this might be the Fielding Bible voting for Crawford’s position in the 2009 awards. With 10 voters able to cast up to 10 points for each candidate, a perfect score would be 100 points. So according to the voters Crawford was the best leftfielder in the game of baseball in 2009. And he was not perfect, but his score of 99 points was the largest tally ever since the 98 total points given to Adam Everett in 2006.
So neither awards system is perfect. And there will always be some teams fans voice crying in the night about their guy being worthy. But right now the Gold Glove is not a fair competition, and maybe change will come in the future. And by the way, only 2009 Gold Glove winner Ichiro Suzuki was selected to also receive a Fielding Bible Award this season. Shows that maybe the system needs a push in the right direction. And maybe the best don’t always get the gold.