Ichiro, Hunter win ninth Gold Gloves
Jeter returns to winning award for first time since 2006
In baseball-speak, Derek Jeter has entered his golden years. On Tuesday the 35-year-old Yankees shortstop re-entered the American League Gold Glove team.With his fourth award for defensive excellence, the first since the last of three straight, in 2006, Jeter became the second-oldest player so honored at the position, a young man's turf.
The AL Gold Glove club also welcomed back senior members Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners and Torii Hunter of the Angels, who shared their ninth consecutive outfield awards.Joining Suzuki and Hunter was Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones, one of three newcomers on an honor squad normally as difficult to crash as a private party. The other "rookies" were Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria and White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, who inherited the Gold Glove for pitchers from the retired Mike Mussina. Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer defended his Gold Glove of 2008 while two others reclaimed the honor after temporary absences. First baseman Mark Teixeira was awarded his first Gold Glove since 2005-06, making the Yankees the only club with multiple players on the team. Placido Polanco of the Tigers earned his second Gold Glove at second base despite a fielding "slump" that saw him commit two errors. Polanco, see, played flawless ball the whole season en route to his first citation, in 2007. Jeter became the oldest honored at his position since Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio, who was 36 when awarded the last of his nine Gold Gloves in 1970. The age-defying accomplishment appropriately punctuates Jeter's season, coming less than a week after the Bombers became the first team to win a World Series with a 35-or-older shortstop. Jeter's eye-popping defensive work wasn't accidental. He committed eight errors in 554 chances -- the league's eight other shortstops with 500-plus chances averaged 17 errors -- the season after his reputation was stung by various sabermetrics indexes that had him as the lowest-ranked shortstop in the Major Leagues.
Hunter and Suzuki each moved into rarefied territory with their ninth Gold Gloves.Only Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays (12 each) and Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones and Al Kaline (10 each) have won more Gold Gloves for outfield play. Hunter, dubbed by Angels manager Mike Scioscia the "captain of the outfield," isn't about to give in to age any more than he would to an approaching outfield wall. "I take great pride in playing center field at a high level. I'm aware of some of the stat guys who are saying I've lost something," said Hunter, 34. "Well, I just wanted to let you know I'm still me. I still can play the game. I know how to play center field. I still feel like I'm one of the best. That's not being cocky. That's confidence." Jones' inclusion is ironic in one significant sense: For two seasons he was one of the young Seattle outfielders whose path was blocked by Ichiro. Then he went to the Orioles in the February 2008 deal for Erik Bedard, and now is reunited with Suzuki on the Gold Glove team. Anyone whose eyes were popped by Teixeira's exceptional glovework throughout the postseason certainly has no issues with him receiving his third Gold Glove. Teixeira's athleticism belies the notion that first base is often a hiding place for defensively challenged hitters. Mauer is another high-profile offensive player whose defense normally has to take a backseat to his batwork. But the three-time AL batting champ is a thinking man's man behind the plate, working well with pitchers and handling their pitches with uncommon quickness for a receiver, thanks to his lean physique (6-foot-5, 220 pounds). Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Rays on July 23, but he was not perfect with the glove all season, making one error. His agility earned him an award he has always craved, and enabled him to perpetuate an interesting Gold Glove tradition. Eighteen of the last 28 AL Gold Gloves for pitchers have gone to left-handers (with Kenny Rogers, Mark Langston and Ron Guidry each earning several). Part of that may be attributable to their advantage in controlling the running game, but a lot of it also has to do with a delivery that throws them into more plays at the end of the pitch.