Orioles living in the past defensively

Now that the Orioles have three Gold Glove winners in 2012, all that’s left is for Buck Showalter to be named the American League’s Manager of the Year and Chris Davis to take home the Rolaids Relief Man Award.

Showalter already won The Sporting News award by edging out Oakland’s Bob Melvin in voting by his peers. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America award, the biggie, will be announced on Nov. 13, with another thin margin expected to separate Showalter and Melvin.

The Orioles have won 64 Gold Gloves since the award’s inception in 1957, one behind the Yankees for most in the American League. The current group is beginning to truly appreciate the franchise’s glorious leather past.

Hardy Fields Black tall.jpg“I’m learning more and more about it every day when they talk about Mark Belanger. And obviously we know about Cal Ripken,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, a first-time winner of the award.

“When they talk to me about these guys and compare them to me, it’s an honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence as those guys.”

Matt Wieters is the only Orioles catcher to win the award, but he shifted his focus and admiration last night to the hot corner.

“We all know that one of the greatest defenders of all time, Brooksie (Robinson), was an Oriole his entire career,” Wieters said. “He set the standard for how you should play defense in an Orioles uniform.”

Adam Jones, who also has two Gold Gloves, paid homage last night to a center fielder who won eight of them with the Orioles.

“It’s a blessing to be in the conversation with such a historic franchise and all the guys who wore the Orioles jersey and played unbelievable defense,” Jones said. “I’m not even close to my man Paul Blair. That man went out there and did it. He went out there and handled his business.

“To be included with Brooks, Cal, Belanger ... I think (Roberto) Alomar won one in an Orioles uniform ... you’ve got guys who went out there and took pride in their defense. You’ve got to take pride in your defense.”

The Orioles led the majors in errors for much of the 2012 season before the shifting of Mark Reynolds to first base and the insertion of rookie Manny Machado at third base and Nate McLouth in left field steadied the club.

Defense used to be a priority with the Orioles and it will remain that way under Showalter.

“Everybody talks about the three-run homer and the great pitching that the Orioles had,” Showalter said. “A lot of people miss Belanger and Brooks Robinson and Paul Blair. Rick Dempsey was a great defender Eddie Murray was an outstanding first baseman. If the ball stayed in the ballpark, they caught it.

“Offense might get you to the big leagues, but defense keeps you there.”

Sounds like the Orioles are living in the past. And that’s a good thing.

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