November 09, 2010
Not only would the action be honorable, but it might jumpstart the process of lending credibility to the most incredible award (not in a good way) in Major League Baseball.
Based on the Internet reaction — which, as usual, ranges from outrage! to apathy — the only group that actually believes Jeter deserves the honor is the award's electorate: Big league managers and coaches. We can't even blame baseball writers for this.
Even the usually restrained Baseball-Reference.com posted "We can't believe it either" for a brief time on its front page in reference to Jeter.
Jeter led AL shortstops in fielding percentage, as he made only six errors, but neither of these stats measures the plays Jeter never got to because of his range. Or lack of range.
By any reasonable metric, Jeter wasn't the best shortstop in the AL in 2010. He wasn't the second best. He wasn't the third or fourth best. To even squeeze him into the top 10, you'd have to rig the contest. By one measure, Jeter was even the worst. Out of 59.
The worst shortstop in the league won a Gold Glove at the most important defensive position on the field. How does this happen?
Matthew Leach of MLB.com found the head of the nail, nodded, and hit it:
One joke goes that Gold Gloves are like Supreme Court appointments: They're hard to get, but once you have them, they're for life.
Exactly. Jeter didn't win a Gold Glove for the other reason players usually do: Because of his bat. He hit poorly in 2010. He won because he's the incumbent, and voters didn't look very hard for reasons to oust him.
Leach's main point — that MLB should find new ways to award Gold Gloves — is the lesson to be learned here.
As one of baseball's most cherished honors, the Gold Glove deserves a better selection process. It deserves voters who see the candidates more often and watch them more closely, and it deserves voters who are more open to newer ways of looking at defense.
This is not to suggest that coaches and managers, the current voting body, don't take their responsibilities seriously. Without a doubt, they do. But you can be dedicated and still not be the best equipped. That's the case when it comes to coaches and managers. They're not in the best position to make the evaluation.
And this is important, why? Because, for example, when considering the propriety of a Hall of Fame candidate, we should be able to look at how many Gold Gloves he won to determine whether he was the best defensive player at his position.
Gold Glove winners are supposed to represent the best fielders in the game. Defensive metrics, admittedly, are the last frontier of statistical analysis.
Just as we figured out that better ways than batting average and RBIs exist to measure how good of a hitter someone is, the same goes for defense. We're on the cusp of being able to accurately quantify what makes a good defensive player.
[Photos: More of Derek Jeter]
Based on what we know about defense, those who comprise the Fielding Bible committee probably come closest to picking the best defensive players.
That would make the "real" Gold Glove winner at short Alexei Ramirez(notes) of the Chicago White Sox, or Elvis Andrus(notes) of the Texas Rangers, or Cliff Pennington(notes) of the Oakland Athletics, or Jack Wilson(notes) of the Seattle Mariners. Jeter doesn't even appear on their voting tally.
Jeter probably won't give back the award — and nor should he, unless everyone else gives back their Gold Gloves, too.
It's not all his fault, even if Jeter is helping to perpetuate a myth by accepting it.
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