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Brendan Ryan Goes O'fer In Gold Glove Hunt, Too

trapped between awardless nimrods
trapped between awardless nimrods
Otto Greule Jr

We're not super strict about our categorizations, here, but for the record, we do have a section entitled Seattle Mariners Bad News. I'm still filing this under Seattle Mariners Regular News instead because I refuse to be moved by the results of the Gold Glove voting. If that didn't give it away, and if the headline didn't give it away, the 2012 Gold Glove Award winners have been announced, and Brendan Ryan wasn't one of them. J.J. Hardy was one of them instead, at Brendan Ryan's position. This is unfortunate, is the consensus.

Ryan, as you know, led the way in Defensive Runs Saved. Ryan, as you know, led the way in UZR. Ryan, as you know, led the way in unparalleled defensive awesomeness. And Ryan also did everything he could to make his defensive contributions more significant by reducing the overall run environment whenever he was at the plate. Nevertheless, J.J. Hardy was named the winner, and more, J.J. Hardy was named the winner for the first time in his career. Hardy isn't even a repeat winner, which would be a little more understandable. Not rationally, I mean, but understandable in the context of Gold Glove voter history.

It's not a travesty, because it's a Gold Glove award. Travesty:

a literary or artistic composition so inferior in quality as to be merely a grotesque imitation of its model.

The Houston Astros are a travesty of a baseball team. Brendan Ryan not winning a Gold Glove is just too bad, in the way that you care about a little for a little. For the record, though, at least J.J. Hardy seems to be quite good himself. Given the uncertainty in the advanced defensive metrics, we can't outright declare that Brendan Ryan was the better defensive shortstop this season. That's the probability, but it's not a certainty. Maybe Hardy was deserving. Hardy wasn't entirely undeserving, which is not zero consolation.

In case you didn't know, the voting is done by each manager and up to six coaches from each staff. What's interesting is that, in the National League, Darwin Barney won the Gold Glove at second base over Brandon Phillips. Phillips had won in 2008, 2010, and 2011, but Barney knocked him off with a great UZR and an unbelievable DRS. Barney also sucked at the plate. You'd think that, if Barney could win, Ryan could win, but the two situations are not equivalent, and Ryan, of course, sucked at the plate more. I don't understand why voters would ever be biased by a guy's offense in any way since this is strictly a defensive award but that's the popular theory.

Actually, the more I think about it, no, I can't bring myself to believe this is about Ryan's offense. Put yourself in the cleats of a voter. You're at least vaguely aware that Ryan finished the year batting under .200. You're also at least vaguely aware that Ryan still played shortstop almost every day. You realize Ryan wasn't playing because of his bat. You must assume, then, that the Mariners were in love with his defense, and it seems to me that should bias the voters in the other direction. Maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe I'm writing all these words about something the voters hardly give any thought to at all.

Hell, you know what? As long as we're writing and thinking, maybe we can choose to take this as the ultimate flattery. Brendan Ryan's defense is so consistently outstandingly good that other coaching staffs around the league just take it for granted. They don't remember Brendan Ryan's amazing defense off the top of their heads because they just consider that his average defense, now, and they're no longer wowed. Maybe Brendan Ryan is too good to win a Gold Glove. Maybe you actually have to be worse. You have to get noticed, and if you already expect Brendan Ryan to get everything, you'll hardly notice if he does indeed get everything.

Brendan Ryan is 30, now, and his defense is presumably going to start getting worse. He's never won a Gold Glove despite having been as good as he's been, and if he couldn't win this year, I don't love his odds next year. Adam Everett never won a Gold Glove, either. When I was first becoming familiar with UZR, so many years ago, I remember that Everett was just extraordinary. He was all about his defense. He actually posted a worse career OPS+ than Ryan has posted to date. Still he played when he was healthy, because of his glovework. On the one hand, sure, you could say that Ryan and Everett have gone unrecognized. But then Ryan just won that Fielding Bible Award, and more, Ryan and Everett have played. They've played despite their bats. That's some form of recognition. It just isn't as shiny.

From Ryan's standpoint, I'm sure he was hoping he'd win a Gold Glove. I'm sure he thought he deserved it, and I'm sure he would've taken it as a great honor. Awards mean nothing to us but plenty to the players, and the Gold Glove has been around for a long time and it's been given to some exceptional defenders. Ryan takes the most pride in his defense and a Gold Glove would've been something for him to point to for the rest of his life. So in that regard, this is too bad. We can be disappointed on Brendan Ryan's behalf.

But ultimately, we know that Brendan Ryan is amazing. Brendan Ryan knows that he's amazing, and Brendan Ryan knows that we know that he's amazing. I would've rather Ryan won than not won. I like the Mariners and I like things that are good for the Mariners. But I'd rather have Ryan deserve to win and lose than deserve to lose and win. One of those ends up with an award. One of those ends up with a more valuable shortstop.


This is one of the greatest plays I've seen, even though it didn't result in an out.


Oh, and Dustin Ackley lost too.