No other team in the majors has more Gold Glove finalists than the Orioles, who are represented by catcher Matt Wieters, first baseman Chris Davis, shortstop J.J. Hardy, third baseman Manny Machado, center fielder Adam Jones and right fielder Nick Markakis.
While heaping praise on each individual, let’s not forget about the coaches who work with them - Bobby Dickerson with the infielders, Wayne Kirby the outfielders and John Russell the catchers.
“It’s exciting,” said Dickerson, named the Orioles’ third base coach last winter. “You have so many goals set when you leave spring training. Obviously, No. 1 is to win the World Series, period, but there are a bunch of individual-type goals, and getting guys to be the best defensively at their positions is one of those goals.
“It’s exciting to have three guys from the infield, and if you look at second base, really, Brian Roberts, Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla all played, if you look at the numbers compared to the league, easily in the top of the league. The way second base grades out, as far as total chances and all that.
“They all really did a nice job and I’m real happy for those guys. Hopefully, they’ll all get Gold Gloves. It’s nice being in that company and being among the elite in the league.”
The Orioles haven’t produced more than four Gold Glove winners in a single season. It happened most recently in 1975 with Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger, Bobby Grich and Paul Blair.
Robinson is the last Orioles third baseman to win the award in ‘75. Machado will try to end that drought.
Machado had 484 chances this season, compared to 386 for Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria and 339 by Texas’ Adrian Beltre.
“Manny didn’t play third base, he played rover,” Dickerson said. “The way he defended and his total chances compared to anybody else at any position in the league, it’s pretty impressive. He made plays on the run in right field, he made plays on the run at shortstop, he made plays on the run at third base. It’s amazing he doesn’t have more errors because he didn’t play third, he played everywhere.”
Managers and coaches cast votes for the Gold Glove Award, but this is the first year that the SABR Defensive Index will account for approximately 25 percent of the results.
“I’ve been studying it the best I can and understanding it the best I can and nobody can give me absolutes,” Dickerson said. “It’s always opinionated how they put in the system and who put in the system. I’m not 100 percent sure how it exactly works.
“I do know this: Manny Machado plays as good a defense as I’ve ever seen, period. If Brooks played it better than that, then holy cow. I can’t even imagine what that would have looked like. And the most impressive part is, the hardest thing to do is play every single day. Manny’s a talented guy and I’ve seen guys make off-balance plays and throws between their legs. We see great plays every night on TV, but to be able to come out and make the routine play consistently, that’s the hard part. The hard part is being able to play every pitch. For a young kid, I’m really impressed at his body of work.”
Davis committed only six errors in 155 games, and Dickerson considers him vastly underrated at first base.
“The first question I got as a new employee to the major league team was, ‘Oh my God, what do we do with Chris Davis? Do we go out and get a first baseman?’” Dickerson recalled. “I remember in spring training talking to Chris and putting a chip on his shoulder, and he really did a nice job. He wanted to go out and prove he could play first base. He wanted to put in the time and effort to do it, and he did. He’s easily in the top three. Easily. And hopefully, he gets recognized and gets it.
“I can’t count the number of times that he saved our other guys from having throwing errors. I will put him on picking balls in the dirt over anybody in the league. Anybody. The thing that hurts him sometimes is going to get balls and range and all that stuff, but the way we run our first base defense is we have the first baseman go to the bag on a lot of plays where he could be taking it and getting assists. He goes to the base and gets the putout. That’s the way we teach it and he’s run with it. We have the pitcher and second baseman go after the ball and have him cover first base, and he did a great job.
“I’m very, very happy for him. And he deserves to be mentioned in that group. He’s earned it.”
Hardy won his first Gold Glove last year, but his value extends beyond the usual statistics. He’s the leader of the infield, a guy who sets an example and takes great pride in the accomplishments of his teammates, as Dickerson and manager Buck Showalter have pointed out.
“He’s definitely the epitome of the fundamentally sound infielder,” Dickerson said. “He tries to do it right and when he feels that maybe he’s done something wrong or he didn’t feel quite right with something, he’s the first to critique himself. He’ll come to me in the dugout and ask what I saw, whether he should have done something differently. I never have to seek him out.
“I can ask him honest questions - what he thinks of what Manny did, should Manny have made that play - and he will never not give an honest answer. He’s a straight-shooter. He holds himself to a high level and it rubs off. His routines every day are really, really consistent. He does the same thing to prepare every day and it rubs off.”
Here’s the complete list of Orioles Gold Glove winners:
1960: Brooks Robinson, 3B
1961: Brooks Robinson, 3B
1962: Brooks Robinson, 3B
1963: Brooks Robinson, 3B
1964: Brooks Robinson, 3B; Luis Aparicio, SS
1965: Brooks Robinson, 3B
1966: Brooks Robinson 3B; Luis Aparicio, SS
1967: Brooks Robinson, 3B; Paul Blair, OF
1968: Brooks Robinson, 3B
1969: Brooks Robinson, 3B; Mark Belanger, SS; Davey Johnson, 2B; Paul Blair, OF
1970: Brooks Robinson, 3B; Davey Johnson, 2B; Paul Blair, OF
1971: Brooks Robinson, 3B; Mark Belanger, SS; Davey Johnson, 2B; Paul Blair, OF
1972: Brooks Robinson, 3B; Paul Blair, OF
1973: Brooks Robinson, 3B; Mark Belanger, SS; Bobby Grich, 2B; Paul Blair, OF
1974: Brooks Robinson, 3B; Mark Belanger, SS; Bobby Grich, 2B; Paul Blair, OF
1975: Brooks Robinson, 3B; Mark Belanger, SS; Bobby Grich, 2B; Paul Blair, OF
1976: Mark Belanger, SS; Bobby Grich, 2B; Jim Palmer, P
1977: Mark Belanger, SS; Jim Palmer, P
1978: Mark Belanger, SS; Jim Palmer, P
1979: Jim Palmer, P
1982: Eddie Murray, 1B
1983: Eddie Murray, 1B
1984: Eddie Murray, 1B
1991: Cal Ripken Jr., SS
1992: Cal Ripken, Jr. SS
1996: Roberto Alomar, 2B; Mike Mussina, P
1997: Mike Mussina, P; Rafael Palmeiro, 1B
1998: Roberto Alomar, 2B; Mike Mussina, P; Rafael Palmeiro, 1B
1999: Mike Mussina, P
2009: Adam Jones, OF
2011: Matt Wieters, C; Nick Markakis, RF
2012: Adam Jones, CF: Matt Wieters, C; J.J. Hardy, SS