Why there should be a separate Gold Glove Award for left field
The Royals are stumping for LF David DeJesus to win a Gold Glove
Carl Crawford is easily the best LF in the AL, and he's never won a Gold Glove
No left fielder has won an American League Gold Glove in 28 years
Deep in some musings last night, I went off on an asterisk tangent about the Kansas City Royals' doomed effort to win a Gold Glove for left fielder David DeJesus. I'll reprint it here because there's another point to be made:
Not to bring the Royals back into this ... but apparently the Royals have gone on a full-fledged assault to try and win left fielder David DeJesus a Gold Glove. I mean, my friend and Royals TV announcer Ryan Lefebvre talks about this EVERY NIGHT now. They actually had a text poll asking Royals fans who is the best Royals outfielder this decade -- DeJesus, Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye or Johnny Damon (and in one of the sadder moments in Royals fan history, DeJesus won). Royals PR guy Mike Swanson is sending out fliers to managers and coaches pushing David as a Gold Glove candidate. Dick Kaegel at MLB.com is writing about it.
I don't know: This whole thing just makes me sad. I would say that David DeJesus is a good left fielder. He makes a lot of nice plays. And he doesn't have an error, which is nice. Yes, the Dewan plus/minus has him at exactly 0 and ranks him the 15th-best left fielder in baseball, making him as average as average can be. But his UZR is quite good -- plus-11.8 runs -- and ranks him third in the league. From my own observation (not that my own observation means much), the UZR tells a fair story; he's a good left fielder. And anyway, managers and coaches don't look at all that Dewan and UZR stuff. And when you compare him to every other fielder on the worst-fielding team in baseball, yes, he looks positively Yaz-like out there.
But we all know that:
1. Left fielders almost never win Gold Gloves. Nor should they in the current system -- left fielders are there almost exclusively because they aren't as good defensively as the center fielder and can't throw as well as the right fielder. The last American League left fielder to win a Gold Glove was Rickey Henderson in the strike year of 1981. That would be when David DeJesus was 2.
2. He's in left field because he wasn't good enough to play center.
3. He's unquestionably not even the best left fielder in the league -- NOBODY would rank him ahead of Carl Crawford. Nobody. I mean NOBODY. Please. NOBODY could watch those two guys play and say "Oh yeah, DeJesus is better." NOBODY. I mean it. And Carl Crawford has NEVER WON A GOLD GLOVE. OK? The defense rests. Court is adjourned. Thanks for coming.
So, how in the heck is he going to win a Gold Glove? If they gave out TEN American League Gold Gloves to outfielders, he wouldn't get one. And he wouldn't deserve one. I do appreciate that we're in the dwindling days of a lost Kansas City season. And I like David DeJesus. And look, there's no harm in trying to win a likable player an award. But this just seems about as productive as mowing your driveway. Focus all your energies on Greinke and the Cy Young -- that's the one thing that should happen and could bring some brightness to this dark season.
The new point is this: I think there SHOULD be a separate left fielder Gold Glove. As longtime Brilliant Reader Paul White points out, there is a separate Gold Glove for first base. And first base is the easiest position to play on the defensive spectrum. If a left fielder can't play defense -- he gets old or he just can't adapt to the position -- he can (and fairly often does) go to first base.
But the question in the DeJesus case is not what SHOULD be reality but what IS reality. In the SHOULD be category, DeJesus would be measured against other left fielders. And because he really is having a good defensive season and he's a very solid player, you could make the case for him to win a Gold Glove. Personally, I wouldn't vote for him -- not with Carl Crawford in the same league -- but I see the case.
But this has nothing whatsoever to do with reality. The reality is that the Gold Glove these days is set up to reward the three best defensive outfielders in the league regardless of position. And that almost never includes a left fielder.* Last year in the American League, two center fielders and Ichiro won. Same the year before that. And the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that. That's eight straight years if I have my "year before thats" lined up. From 1988 to 1998 the only non-center fielder to win a Gold Glove in the American League was Jay Buhner. He was a right fielder. As mentioned, no left fielder has won an AL Gold Glove in 28 years.
* Barry Bonds was an exception to this rule ... he won eight Gold Gloves in left field. In fact, the National League managers and coaches have clearly had a more well-rounded view when it comes to the Gold Glove. In 1990 and '91 the Gold Gloves went to a left fielder (Bonds), a center fielder (Andy Van Slyke) and a right fielder (Tony Gwynn). And from 1986-2002, they picked at least one corner outfielder every year but one. But lately, the NL has gone to picking three center fielders, too ... last year the managers and coaches picked Nate McLouth, Carlos Beltran and Shane Victorino, all center fielders.
I understand the way managers and coaches feel about the award. You put your best defensive outfielder in center field, and if you are told, "OK, we want to give the three best outfielders rewards for their defense," those should probably go to center fielders. Heck, one of the compliments people will sometimes give left fielders is to say, "He's like a centerfielder playing left." I mean, this is the structure of the game.
This year, there is absolutely no doubt that Seattle center fielder Franklin Gutierrez should win a Gold Glove. He might be the best overall defender in the AL, any position. Ichiro will win a Gold Glove because Ichiro ALWAYS wins a Gold Glove -- and he really is a great defensive player. Then you have all the AL centerfielders -- B.J. Upton, Curtis Granderson, Torii Hunter (don't know if he has played enough games -- the voters LOVE Torii), Grady Sizemore (same thing -- voters love him, but he has been hurt), Carlos Gomez and so on.
I do think it would make the Gold Gloves much more interesting if they picked a trio made up of a left fielder, center fielder and right fielder. I'm glad that John Dewan does this with the Fielding Bible Awards.
Of course, one more time, if the coaches and managers DID pick a left fielder, then Carl Crawford would and should be the overwhelming choice. And the Royals know this better than anyone ... for three years now they have thought DeJesus was killing them in center field. They traded for Joey Gathright and put his non-bat in the lineup just so they could have him play defense in center. They traded for Coco Crisp and paid the guy a lot of money so he could help them out defensively in center field even though he could not throw the ball from one end of a dinner table to the other. They put Mitch Maier and Josh Anderson and Willie Bloomquist in center rather than move DeJesus back. As far as I know, none of these guys has won a Gold Glove.
And now, they're stumping for DeJesus to win a Gold Glove. I really do appreciate the effort of promoting a player you think is performing well. But, you know, it's kind of familiar: I remember back in 2005 the Royals made a PR push to win left fielder Terrence Long a Gold Glove. No, really, it's true, they did that. I guess pushing for your left fielder to win a Gold Glove is one of those weird things you do during a lost season.
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