Hunter, Ichiro among AL Gold Glovers
Defensive stars in outfield earn award for eighth straight year
Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki began collecting Gold Gloves in 2001 and they're still going strong.
Some of the names and faces change, but Hunter and Ichiro remain constants among American League Gold Glovers. When the AL Rawlings Gold Glove squad was announced on Thursday, Hunter and Ichiro were recognized for the eighth consecutive year. Whether it's Ichiro racking up an outfield assist for Seattle with his laser-like right arm or Hunter leaping at the wall for a highlight-reel catch to help the Angels, the pattern of defensive excellence among those American League West outfielders is well established.
The winners were selected by managers and coaches from each AL team. Managers and coaches could not vote for their own players. The 2008 season marked the 52nd year of the Gold Glove Awards.
While Hunter and Ichiro have become fixtures with eight consecutive Gold Gloves apiece, Mussina isn't far behind. Gaining his first Gold Glove since 2003, the veteran right-hander now has seven. He also received the defensive honor in 1996-99, 2001 and '03.
Besides Hunter and Ichiro, other repeat winners from 2007 include Sizemore and Beltre.
Only five outfielders have more Gold Gloves than Hunter and Ichiro. That exclusive list includes Roberto Clemente (12), Willie Mays (12), Ken Griffey Jr. (10), Andruw Jones (10) and Al Kaline (10).
Hunter won his first seven Gold Gloves with the Twins before signing with the Angels and continuing to play stellar defense for the AL West champs last season.
"I take a lot of pride in my defense -- it's one part of the game that can be a constant if you concentrate on what you're doing," Hunter said.
Hunter wasn't charged with an error in '08 and hasn't made one in the regular season since Aug. 31, 2007.
"He had a great season offensively, as well as defensively," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Ichiro finished with 11 outfield assists, tying for fifth in the AL.
"I take it to heart that this award is given for work done for an entire season," Ichiro said. "From the very first day of the season to the very last game."
Despite a tough 2008 season, the Mariners can take some satisfaction being the only AL team with two Gold Glove Award winners. Beltre led his AL counterparts with 272 assists and was fourth in fielding percentage at .964. Beltre's season ended on Sept. 14 because of injuries. But by then, he had firmly left his mark as a defensive standout.
"He trusts his glove, doesn't have any fear, and is very intense about his defense," said Sam Perlozzo, who was the Mariners' third-base/infield coach last season. "He wore me out in Spring Training, catching ground ball after ground ball, and he wanted you to hit them hard."
In winning his seventh Gold Glove, Mussina now has more than any AL pitcher other than Jim Kaat, who had 14 in the AL before getting two more in the NL. The fielding honor helps cap a memorable individual season for Mussina, who won 20 games for the first time in his career.
"I was hoping that I'd be important to the club this year," Mussina said in August. "I was hoping I'd have a role like I've had in the past."
Pena becomes the first player in Rays' history to capture a Gold Glove. He led all AL first basemen and infielders with a .998 fielding percentage. Pena committed just two errors in 1,099 total chances, making both the routine play and the occasional spectacular play.
"I couldn't believe it at first," Pena said. "I was very pumped up and happy about it."
In 157 games, Pedroia made just six errors at second and had a .992 fielding percentage. It marked the third time in the last four years that the Red Sox have had a Gold Glove winner. Catcher Jason Varitek was selected in 2005 and first baseman Kevin Youkilis received Gold Glove recognition in 2007.
Young's first Gold Glove as the Rangers' shortstop caps a story of sacrifice. Entrenched as the Texas second baseman when he went to Spring Training in 2004, Young volunteered to change positions after the club acquired Alfonso Soriano, who had a strong preference to play second.
Young led all AL shortstops with a .984 fielding percentage. He's the first Texas player to win a Gold Glove since first baseman Mark Teixeira in 2006.
Mauer is the second catcher in Twins history to win a Gold Glove. Earl Battey won the award in 1961-62. Mauer led all AL catchers in games caught (139) and was charged with only three errors and four passed balls in 1,203 innings. He also was saluted throughout the year for his handling of a Minnesota pitching staff which thrived despite losing ace left-hander Johan Santana via free agency. Mauer threw out 29-of-51 basestealers for a 36.3 percentage, ranking him second in the AL.
"It means a lot," Mauer said. "To be recognized as a great defensive catcher has always been a goal of mine. I've worked really hard to try to get better on the defensive side."
Sizemore's second consecutive Gold Glove came after a year in which he committed just two errors in 151 starts in center field.
"It's a great feeling," Sizemore said. "You never really go into the year expecting something like this."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.