For the first time in 13 years, the Orioles have multiple Gold Glove winners.
Catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis, both of whom had never won a Rawlings Gold Glove previously, became the first set of Orioles teammates to capture baseball's most prestigious defensive award since second baseman Roberto Alomar, pitcher Mike Mussina and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro were honored in 1998.
The Orioles nearly won three of the nine American League awards this year, with shortstop J.J. Hardy announced as a finalist. He ultimately lost to the Los Angeles Angels' Erick Aybar.
Club history was made with this year's voting, however. Dating to the award's inception in 1957, the Orioles had never had a Gold Glove catcher. The Orioles, who are third all time with 61 of the awards, have had winners at all the other infield positions, pitcher and outfield.
"That's pretty amazing for a storied organization like the Orioles and with as many great catchers and great players that have come through here," said Wieters, who threw out 37 percent of would-be base stealers and allowed just one passed ball. "It's a great honor, and it's nice to get all nine positions covered now for the Orioles."
Voted on by managers and coaches, the awards were announced Tuesday night on ESPN2, the first time they have been televised. There was also another change this season, one that greatly benefited Markakis.
In the past, the award was given to three outfielders in each league regardless of specific position. Traditionally, center fielders received the most attention. This was the first year the outfield was broken into left, center and right field awards -- giving Markakis a better chance to win his first.
"That's a great example of what splitting up that outfield thing would do: You bring in a guy throwing the way Nicky did and playing the wall the way he did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You always hear about run production, but it's also about run reduction. And if you took the number of runs he reduced and added to the number he produced, he would have had something like 150 RBIs."
The 27-year-old right fielder, in his sixth full year, did not commit an error for the first time in his career -- a span of 157 games in right. He also had 14 assists, the second-highest number of his career.
"I love being out there and playing hard every day. I love helping the team win any way I can, and I take as much pride in my defense as I do my offense," Markakis said through a spokesman. "I really enjoy playing defense as much as the offensive part."
When asked what it was like to join Markakis in winning the award, Wieters, 25, said: "It's awesome. I've gotten to see Nick play a great right field for three years now, and he's well-deserving with the way he plays the right-field wall and the way he throws out base runners. This was a long time coming for him."
It wasn't particularly unexpected for Wieters, who received rave reviews all season for his work behind the plate and with the pitching staff. He also won his first "Fielding Bible" award, presented by ACTA Sports, this year.
"I started out hot, threw out a lot of base runners early, and that gets you noticed. And I was able to play well defensively all season, Wieters said. "I think defense is something that I take pride in and a lot of catchers take pride in coming up."
Said Showalter about Wieters' 2011 defensive performance: "That's probably, from start to finish, the best catching job I've ever seen."
The last Oriole to win a Gold Glove was center fielder Adam Jones in 2009. Jones was not in the top three finalists this year.
"It's very exciting for [Markakis and Wieters] to be rewarded and get the attention they richly deserved," Showalter said. "I was hoping J.J. and Jonesy would have had a shot, too."
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