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AL Gold Glove Winners: Reputation Comes Before Reality

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Once again, the Gold Gloves have proven incredible. And I don't mean that as a superlative, I mean really, they're not credible.

Position Winner
Pitcher Mark Buehrle
Catcher Joe Mauer
First Base Mark Teixeira
Second Base Robinson Cano
Shortstop Derek Jeter
Third Base Evan Longoria
Outfield Ichiro Suzuki
Outfield Carl Crawford
Outfield Franklin Gutierrez


Red Sox fans--and baseball fans in general--have heard this spiel before, but Derek Jeter? Really? The evidence has shown time and again that Derek Jeter is not a good shortstop. He's not even average. He's just bad. And yet, time and again, he's given credit as one of the best because...

Actually, I can't say I understand what it is that gives a player a reputation for good defense these days.

Sure, some of the names are impressive defenders. Evan Longoria, Ichiro Suzuki, and Franklin Gutierrez are all certainly great fielders by anyone's estimation-statistical or otherwise. So is Joe Mauer despite the fact that his defense is harder to quantify, and Carl Crawford even though he refuses to leave the unimpressive left field position.

But let's talk Mark Teixeira, please. Too often I've heard even more statistically-minded baseball fans citing Teixeira as an elite defender, but where's the--oh God, am I really going to say this--where's the beef? He can pick balls out of the dirt or air fairly well, and he's got good reflexes on balls hit sharply at him, but in the last five years he's only had one convincingly impressive defensive year according to any metrics (yes, even ones that take into account positioning and said picking balls out of the dirt/air). Otherwise, he's been consistently average, maybe a little above, maybe a little below.

He strikes me as the new Torii Hunter. For a few years, Hunter was one of the best defenders in the game. Then he started to decline, but still kept picking up the accolades even as he started hitting rock bottom. Even the experts at the fielding bible, some of them having created the very statistics that show him to be average, seem subject to the siren call of reputation, voting him the fourth best fielder this year*. Once that reputation is earned--and make no mistake, Teixeira did earn it earlier in his career--it's tough to kick.

*Perhaps it only stands to reason that the actual votes he received are so polarized, with three first place votes and then no more coming in before sixth.