"It just gives me a little token of all the hard work I put into it," said Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado on winning his second Gold Glove award. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
In his first full major league season two years ago, Manny Machado established himself as one of the best defensive players in the game as he won his first career Gold Glove.
Still, after winning his second Gold Glove on Tuesday night — laying claim as the best defensive third baseman in the American League and excelling at a position he's played regularly for less than four years — the Orioles' 23-year-old budding superstar said he still considers himself more student than star.
This season, Machado edged a pair of multiple Gold Glove winners — four-time winner Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers and two-time winner Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays — who Machado said he learned how to play the position by watching, paying special attention to them from the opposing dugout and studying game videos of their play at the hot corner.
"When I came up, I never played third base in my life," said Machado, who was groomed as a shortstop in the minors before joining the Orioles in August of 2012 to be the club's starting third baseman. "So I watched a lot of YouTube video, so I watched a lot of video on Adrian and Longoria … just to kind of see how they played. See their pregame routine, how they did their pre-pitch [preparation], how they caught their grounders, just kind of see their highlights, just kind get a feel for what third base is and how I'm supposed to be playing it. To this day, I'm still learning."
Now, Machado joins those two players as a multiple Gold Glove winner.
And after following up his first Gold Glove in 2013 with another in '15, Machado is now the second Orioles third baseman to win multiple Gold Glove awards, joining Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, who won 16 straight from 1960 to 1975.
"Anytime you're mentioned with Brooks in any conversation, it's an honor," Machado said. "He's one of the greatest third basemen of all time. Obviously, he's an Oriole. He's been [in] our company quite a bit. At the end of the day, it's just an honor to be in the same conversation as a person like that [who is] very, very respected. It's just a great honor."
Machado was the Orioles' only Gold Glove winner this season, marking the first year since 2010 that the Orioles didn't have multiple winners of the award. The Orioles collected three Gold Glove awards in each of the previous two seasons, and outfielder Adam Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy won the award three consecutive years from 2012 to '14.
Gold Glove winners are selected by a vote of major league managers and coaches (75 percent), as well as a statistical equivalent that ranks defenders called the SABR Defensive Index (25 percent).
After his two previous seasons were cut short by injuries to each of his knees that required offseason surgery, Machado reached a new level at the plate, setting career highs in batting average (.286), runs scored (102), home runs (35), RBIs (86) and stolen bases (20). But on defense, Machado played the same level of defense that established him as one of the game's top young players, putting any doubts about his injuries in the past.
"It just gives me a little token of all the hard work I put into it," Machado said. "I know I got injured and people doubted me and people thought I wasn't going to be the same, but it made me just push harder. I wanted to be the best out there. I wanted to show that I could still be the best position player out there, the best third baseman out there. It just feels good that I'm back to where I needed to be."
In fact, Machado was the only major leaguer this season to play in all 162 regular-season games, and he said being able to help his team defensively every day played a part in his desire to play every game.
"It's a position I'm grateful to be in," Machado said. "It's not every day you're going to go 4-for-4 or hit a walk-off home run. I think the best all-around players are always going to make an impact on defense like we've seen in this World Series. Defense wins games and the little small things are always what's going to take you to the next level and be the best and be a successful team overall."
Despite committing a career-high 19 errors in his 156 games at third (he also played parts of seven games at shortstop, making two errors there), Machado still recorded a .961 fielding percentage.
Among the three AL Gold Glove finalists at third base, Beltre recorded the most defensive runs saved (18), and Longoria committed the fewest errors (9), but Machado was boosted by having the best score of the group in the SABR Defensive Index.
Machado's SABR Defensive Index score — which uses two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play data — of 11.8 bettered both Beltre (7.8) and Longoria (5.1).
In 2013, Machado also won the AL Platinum Glove award, which is given to the AL's top overall defensive player selected from the nine Gold Glove winners.