Defense has been a key component to the Orioles' resurgence in the last three seasons, and on Tuesday they had three players selected as American League Gold Glove Award winners for the third straight year.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy, center fielder Adam Jones and right fielder Nick Markakis each won the Gold Glove at his respective position. This marked the first time the Orioles have won three or more Gold Gloves in three consecutive seasons since the club achieved that feat in a four-year span from 1973 to 1976. The Orioles are the only AL team to accomplish that, and they're the first club overall to do it since the St. Louis Cardinals from 2002 to 2004.
The Orioles' recent dominance in the Gold Gloves is reminiscent of those teams. They've had multiple winners for four straight years, winning 11 total Gold Gloves in that span. The Orioles have now won a total of 70 Gold Glove Awards, six more than any other AL team and second in the major leagues behind the Cardinals' 85.
Jones won the fourth Gold Glove of his career, tying him for third-most in franchise history, and he and Hardy became the first set of teammates since the Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki and Bret Boone (2002 to 2004) to win a Gold Glove for three straight years in a decade. Markakis won his second career Gold Glove.
The three Gold Gloves won by the Orioles this season were tied for the most of any team for a second consecutive year. The Kansas City Royals also received three awards in each of the last two seasons.
Jones, who also won the Gold Glove in 2009, 2012 and 2013, joined select company among franchise greats with his fourth award. Third baseman Brooks Robinson won 16 career Gold Gloves, while center fielder Paul Blair and shortstop Mark Belanger each won eight. Right-hander Jim Palmer, second baseman Bobby Grich and right-hander Mike Mussina each won four.
"There's a lot of prestige in Orioles history with Gold Gloves with Brooks, he obviously had 16," Jones said during an on-air interview during the awards show on ESPN2. "Paul Blair had eight. So there's some people [ahead of me]. I'm staying motivated so that I can join those kind of class of guys."
Winners were selected by a combination the vote of managers and coaches — seven from each club can vote, but they can't select players on their own team — and a sabermetric equivalent.
The votes from managers and coaches account for 75 percent and the SABR defensive index — a metric developed by the Society for American Baseball Research — accounts for the remaining 25 percent.
"I'm very honored to receive the Gold Glove award," Jones said in a statement released by the team. "It means a lot to me because it is voted on by the opposing managers and coaches and it shows that they appreciate the way I play the game.
"I also want to acknowledge the efforts and dedication of [outfield coach] Wayne Kirby and [infield coach] Bobby Dickerson. Their tireless and diligent efforts to help me and all of our players on the defensive side of the game cannot be overlooked or underestimated."
Hardy, who led all AL shortstops in total zone runs (14) and ranked seventh among all AL defenders in defensive WAR (2.1), became the first Orioles shortstop to win the award in three straight seasons since Belanger received the award six consecutive seasons from 1973 to 1978. Cal Ripken Jr. won back-to-back Gold Gloves as shortstop in 1991 and 1992.
"This is a special award for me because of the fact that the opposing managers and coaches are the voters, and obviously I have a lot of respect for them and their knowledge of the game," Hardy said in a statement. "A lot of the credit goes to Bobby Dickerson, who puts in a lot of time and effort with us and puts us in a position to be successful."
Markakis won after he was a finalist last season but edged by the Boston Red Sox's Shane Victorino. Markakis did not commit a single error this season in 306 total chances this season, and he recorded 11 outfield assists, second-most among AL right fielders.
Markakis has an errorless streak of 328 games, dating back to Aug. 10, 2012, eight games short of Rich Amaral's AL record and 64 games shy of Darren Lewis' major league record (392).
"It's a great honor to win the Gold Glove," Markakis said in a statement. "It's an individual award, but a lot of people contribute to it," Markakis said. "Wayne Kirby is a great influence on the outfielders and does a great job prepping us and putting us in the right position to make plays."
Jones took special joy in seeing Markakis, who is currently a free agent, get recognized.
"We take a lot of pride in our ability," Jones said in the television interview. "You look at the Royals, and their defense is unbelievable. They showed it off in the playoffs, but Markakis, me and him, we've played together for seven years, and we just seem to know how each other works, how we're thinking.
"It's pretty incredible that we both get it in the same year. We both put in the tireless work. It's good to see Markakis get awarded something because he's not stylish. He dives for everything and just throws it back in. He's so nonchalant. It's good to see that guys are seeing him for what he's doing to contribute to our defense."
The Platinum Glove Award, given to the top overall defensive player in each league, will be announced at the Gold Glove Awards ceremony Nov. 7. Orioles third baseman Manny Machado won the AL Platinum Glove last season.