This past Tuesday, three former Smokies were recognized for their defensive efforts during the 2012 season and awarded with Gold Gloves. 2009 second baseman Darwin Barney (Chicago Cubs) won his first career Gold Glove in his second full season with the Cubs, 2006 outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado Rockies) took home his second Gold Glove of his career and 2003 catcher Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals) was named to the defensive team for the fifth consecutive season.
*Defensive records with the Smokies*
Barney - 74 games, 16 E, 318 Total Chances - .981 fielding percentage
Gonzalez - 18 games, 2 E, 64 Total Chances - .969 fielding percentage
Molina - 104 games, 8 E, 855 Total Chances - .991 fielding percentage
Darwin Barney - by Carrie Muskat/MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Darwin Barney's glove is now solid gold.
On Tuesday, Barney was named the National League's top defensive second baseman, winning his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award. The Cubs infielder won the honor over the Reds' Brandon Phillips and the Diamondbacks' Aaron Hill.
"I'm extremely thrilled," Barney said late Tuesday. "It's something you came into the season working towards, but it's not something where I thought the results would be there as quickly as they were. I'm extremely happy about it. There's a lot of good competition. I'm really surprised it ended up happening for me. It's an exciting night for me."
Not bad for someone who was primarily a shortstop and didn't become the Cubs' full-time second baseman until 2011.
"I felt the transition would happen eventually," Barney said. "I didn't think it would be as smooth as it was."
He recalled a conversation a couple years ago with Al Geddes, who was the scout who signed Barney, a fourth-round pick in 2007. Barney admitted then that as much as he loved playing shortstop, he thought he could win a Gold Glove at second base someday.
"It's funny that three years down the road, it happened," Barney said.
Barney is the first Cubs player to win a Gold Glove since first baseman Derrek Lee in 2007, and the first second baseman to do so since Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg won his ninth and final such trophy in 1991.
"It goes without saying he's Gold Glove material," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Barney. "I've been in the game 30 years, and I've never seen anyone play second base like [Barney] has. I was very fortunate to be around who I consider the best I'd ever seen at that position in Jimmy Gantner in Milwaukee. He was another guy who was under the radar because of his offense.
"I think Barney is better than that. He puts everything into the package, going for popups down the right-field line, double plays, the range -- he has so many different things in his tool box. It's not just a guy catching the ball, routine balls -- he was spectacular all season."
Phillips had won the Gold Glove three times in the last four years, but he apparently got a heads up that he would not collect another trophy. The Reds' infielder tweeted earlier: "My 2012 Season/Postseason was GOOD ... but NOT GOOD enough: No #AllStar + No #GoldGlove + No #SilverSlugger + No #WSRing = #MOTIVATION."
Both Phillips and Hill finished with a .992 fielding percentage, while Barney had the best mark among NL second basemen at .997, committing just two errors. Barney's fielding percentage also set a Cubs record for a single season by a second baseman, topping Sandberg's previous high of .995 set in '91.
The Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners were determined by votes cast by each Major League manager and up to six coaches on their staffs. They picked from a pool of qualified players in their respective league, and they could not vote for players on their own team.
Barney starred during his streak, playing in 141 error-free games, which tied a Major League single-season record for second basemen set in 2007 by Placido Polanco. Barney was three outs away from setting the mark before he was charged with a throwing error in the eighth inning Sept. 28 against the Diamondbacks.
Barney, who turns 27 on Nov. 8, does own all NL marks for consecutive errorless games at second base, surpassing Sandberg's former record 123-game errorless streak, allowing for multiple seasons, that ran from June 21, 1989-May 17, 1990. David Eckstein owned the previous NL single-season mark of 113 consecutive games set with San Diego in 2010.
Barney's 141-game errorless streak at second base spanned 1,154 1/3 innings since his only other miscue this year at second base, April 17 in Miami.
His streak featured more total chances per nine innings (5.30) than any other second baseman in baseball. During the 141 games, Barney also had more putouts (293) than anyone else in that span. The White Sox's Gordon Beckham was next closest at 259. Barney's 676 total chances trailed only Hill (687).
Sandberg was an integral part of Barney's development. The Hall of Famer was Barney's manager in the Minor Leagues for three seasons. When shortstop Starlin Castro was promoted from Double-A to the big leagues in May 2010, Barney was passed over. At that time, he was the shortstop at Triple-A under Sandberg. Barney and Sandberg would then work out each day at second to learn that position.
"'Ryno' meant a lot," Barney said. "When Starlin got called up from Double-A and I was at Triple-A, Ryno was really one of the guys who kept me confident in my ability and that there was a spot for me in the big leagues someday. We worked numerous times at second base even though I played shortstop every day [for Iowa]."
Sandberg did contact Barney after the errorless streak ended, sending a text message.
"He told me how proud he was and that he wouldn't have anyone but me do that," Barney said. "It was a really nice text."
Pat Listach, who was the Cubs' infield coach and also helped Barney make the transition from shortstop to second, said the infielder showed a desire to be the best, and his work ethic paid off.
"He wants to make every play, and he's not afraid to make plays," Listach said of Barney. "You want that at every position."
Barney joked that the thing he had to work on this offseason was to correct the mistakes made on the two errors he was charged with in 2012.
"From top to bottom, you have to continue to work on your routine plays and being consistent," he said. "You know you're not going to run into a streak defensively every single year -- or I guess not very often at all. You want to be as consistent as you can and keep working. You can't be satisfied.
"Winning Gold Gloves doesn't satisfy me for the future. It makes me proud of my season. It makes me hungry to work and try to get another one someday. ... It's been a long path. It's a big accomplishment for me."
Carlos Gonzalez - by Thomas Harding/MLB.com
DENVER -- The Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez made the most of a difficult season by making enough outstanding plays in left field to earn his second National League Rawlings Gold Glove Award, it was announced Tuesday night.
Gonzalez, who won the award in 2010, was selected through voting by NL managers and coaches. The Brewers' Ryan Braun and the Braves' Martin Prado were the other finalists. Managers and coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.
"I feel honored and blessed with this award," Gonzalez expressed on his Twitter page. "Having a great defense in the outfield [is] very important for me. I work hard to be a help for my team."
In 131 games defensively in 2012, Gonzalez, a first-time All-Star Game participant, impressed more with style and intimidation than numbers.
Gonzalez finished fifth among NL left fielders with seven assists, but he leads NL left fielders with 27 outfield assists since 2010, which ranks third-most among all NL outfielders. Gonzalez posted a .982 fielding percentage in 2012, and his .992 overall fielding percentage since 2010 is fifth among NL left fielders with a minimum of 200 games.
This is the second year that the outfield Gold Glove Awards were selected by position. Interestingly, the process might have cost Gonzalez last year, when he played a significant number of games at each outfield position.
In 2012, then-Rockies manager Jim Tracy decided to keep Gonzalez in left field, partly to reduce the possibility of a recurrence of the wrist injuries that reduced his effectiveness in 2010 and 2011. Gonzalez struggled early with fly balls that took him to the wall, but after about a month, he became a threat to take away hits with diving catches and intimidated baserunners.
Gonzalez earned the 12th Gold Glove in the Rockies' 20-season history. Among outfielders, his two awards are second on the club's list to the five earned by Larry Walker (1997-99, 2001-02).
Yadier Molina - by Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Already considered the gold standard at his position, Yadier Molina received more gold hardware to display as proof of that excellence.
During an hour-long program on ESPN2 Tuesday night, Molina was announced as the Rawlings Gold Glove winner, sealing the fifth straight year in which he has been voted the league's best defensive catcher. Molina becomes the first Cardinals player since Jim Edmonds to receive a Gold Glove Award for that many consecutive seasons.
"It's always such a great honor to win the Gold Glove Award," Molina said. "It's something that you work hard for, and it's nice to be voted as a top player at your position."
Voting for the award is done by managers and coaches. Finishing closest to Molina in the vote were Arizona's Miguel Montero and Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz.
"The league has many good catchers," Molina said during the National League Championship Series. "I just want to be the best that I can. You have to think that way. If you get comfortable, you won't be here for a long time. You can't be comfortable in this game. You have to constantly work to get better."
With his fifth Gold Glove, Molina moves further into elite catching company. Only four catchers -- Ivan Rodriguez (13), Johnny Bench (10), Bob Boone (7) and Jim Sundberg (6) -- have earned more Gold Gloves than Molina, whose five ties him with Bill Freehan.
Molina, 30, preceded this honor by winning another defensive award -- the Fielding Bible Award -- last week. It caps a season in which he threw out 46 percent of attempted basestealers and topped all catchers in the Defensive Run Saved statistic. According to that measurement, which was created to calculate how many plays a fielder makes above or below an average player at that position, Molina scored a 16.
Statistics, though, cannot fully measure Molina's impact. He excels at blocking pitches in the dirt and is among the game's best in calling a game.
"I will stand behind the fact that Yadier Molina has impressed me more than any catcher I've ever witnessed," Cardinals manager and four-time Gold Glove-winning catcher Mike Matheny said earlier this month. "The things that he does that are intangible you can only see by watching every day and watching [with] a very critical eye. But he has everything that you would ask for from a catcher defensively."
The rest of the list of 2012 NL Gold Glove recipients includes: Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Heyward, Adam LaRoche, Darwin Barney, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Headley and Mark Buehrle.
Molina will now compete against that group of NL players for the second annual Rawlings Platinum Glove Award, which Molina won in 2011. The award recognizes the best defensive player (regardless of position) in each league and will be determined through a fan vote.
Visit Rawlings.com to cast a vote for the award. Winners will be announced on Nov. 9.