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Orioles defense is gold-plated, again

Peter Schmuck
Contact ReporterThe Schmuck Stops Here
It's hard to argue with Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones as Gold Glove winners.

No one should be surprised that center fielder Adam Jones, shortstop J.J. Hardy and right fielder Nick Markakis were honored with Rawlings Gold Glove Awards for their defensive excellence during the 2014 season. They all contributed mightily to the strong team defense that helped the Orioles win the American League East title and advance to the AL Championship Series.

There were certainly other deserving candidates at those positions and the sports talk shows will be buzzing in some other major league cities, but it’s hard to make a strong case for any great injustice here.

Stand by for some Midwestern muttering after the surprising playoff run by the Kansas City Royals focused attention on the fact that terrific center fielder Lorenzo Cain wasn’t even nominated to be a finalist, but he only played 93 games in center field and often got pushed to right field to make room for Jarrod Dyson in the late innings.

Cain should have been a finalist, but obviously fell victim to the notion that he couldn’t be the best defensive center fielder in the American League if he wasn’t even the best center fielder on his own team. Boston Red Sox finalist Jackie Bradley Jr. also suffered from lack of exposure, playing 42 fewer games in center field than Jones.

Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar had a terrific defensive season and so did fellow finalist Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox, but even with the objective SABR defensive index accounting for 25 percent of the selection process, Hardy’s reputation as the most steady and dependable shortstop in the game apparently outweighed all the flashy Web Gems that put the other finalists on the map.

Markakis won for the same reason. He made some great plays, but opposing managers and coaches see what Buck Showalter sees -- a guy who makes everything look routine and almost never makes a bad play. He ended the 2014 season needing just nine more consecutive errorless games in the outfield to eclipse the AL record by an outfielder (336).

Jones won his fourth Gold Glove; Hardy won his third, and Markakis his second. The only surprise here is that Hardy and Markakis haven’t won more.

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