Scott Garceau: O’s Golden (Glove) Era
Buck and the Birds bring playoff baseball back to Baltimore and the Orioles are the only team with 3 Rawlings Gold Glove winners, indications that maybe the long gone “Oriole Way” has risen from the dead. Matt Wieters and Adam Jones strike Gold for the second time and rock solid shortstop JJ Hardy gets his first Gold Glove Award. Pretty remarkable when you consider the Orioles were the worst fielding team in baseball at the all-star break.
Hardy, Jones and Wieters were terrific all season but the infield corners and some of the outfield play was a mess. It all came together in the second half when Mark Reynolds (aka Sheriff) a liability at 3rd baseman, showed up with Gold Glove caliber play at 1st base. Manny Machado arrived in early August and the kid was Brooks like at 3rd. Nate McClouth took over in left field and showed us why he won Gold with the Pirates. Nick Markakis missed time with injuries but was the defending Gold Glove winner in right field.
Just like that, the bumbling Orioles became one of the best defensive teams in baseball as they rolled to the
post-season with 93 wins. This is how the great Oriole teams were built, pitching and defense the foundation for a franchise that the was the best in sports over a 25 years period. Consider the 8 years from 1969-1976 that included 4 first place finishes, 3 World Series and an average of 95.5 wins a year. Those teams had more Gold than Fort Knox.
Brooks Robinson was the human vacuum cleaner at 3rd at the end of a 16 year consecutive Gold Glove run. With Mark Belanger at short the Orioles may have had the best defensive left side in MLB history “The Blade” won 8 Gold Gloves and 5 of 7 in this period. At 2nd base Nats skipper Davey Johnson was Gold from ’69 to ’71 before passing the glove to Booby Grich who won 4 straight between ’73 and ’76. The Orioles had 7 of the 8 Gold Gloves at 2nd base during this period.
For those hitters they were able to stay away from the Orioles all-world infield there was Paul Blair covering about 4 square miles in centerfield. It looked like Blair was playing short-field in a beer league softball game but nothing got over his head. He won 8 Gold Gloves and was the Willie Mays of the American League.
And that Cy Young guy on the mound could do more than pitch, Jim Palmer could field his position and has 4 Gold Gloves to prove it. He might have won a lot more but his career happened to coincide with Jim Kaat’s who was the Brooks Robinson of pitchers collecting 16 Gold prizes.
The O’s defensive tradition goes back to the 50’s with guys like Willie Miranda and Hall of Famer George Kell. Louie Aparacio, Eddie Murray, Robbie Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro added to it.
In the golden summer of 2012 it was nice to see it back.