J.J. Hardy thought he’d hit a home run, only to be robbed when Mike Trout made one of the most sensational grabs of the season.
On Tuesday night, Hardy caught a break.
The Baltimore shortstop won a Gold Glove, putting him among a group of nine players honored for the first time for their fielding excellence.
”It means a lot to me,” said Hardy, in his eighth big league season. ”It’s definitely an award I always hoped to get and never really expected to get. I’m surprised and honored at the same time.”
Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen, San Diego third baseman Chase Headley and Oakland right fielder Josh Reddick also were first-time selections.
”I’m just happy I can pull it out for them and get the A’s name even more out there,” Reddick said. ”It’s a huge honor, I’m always taking pride in both sides of my game and trying to be a complete player. You never know what one play, whether the first or the ninth inning, is going to win a ballgame. That’s what my mother and father taught me.”
Headley, who had a breakout year with the bat, said he and Padres coach Glenn Hoffman, a former major league shortstop, talked during spring training about improving his defense.
”The foundation was laid there,” Headley said. ”Obviously it’s nice when you get the results when you focus on something. … Your pitcher counts on you to make routine plays each and every time. I was able to do a better job this year.”
The Orioles were the only team with three winners. Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones and catcher Matt Wieters were second-time choices, joining Hardy for the awards chosen by major league managers and coaches and presented by Rawlings.
Trout, the Angels rookie center fielder who spent the year climbing walls to take away potential homers, was not picked. Among his best catches came against Hardy at Camden Yards in June.
The San Francisco Giants, fresh off winning a World Series in which they excelled with their gloves, did not have a Gold Glover.
These were the first major awards presented during the offseason, and the MVPs, Cy Youngs and others will come in mid-November. Gold Gloves always seem to raise a ruckus, with many claiming the prizes – actual gloves colored gold – don’t define the most deserving fielders.
Hardy led the AL in fielding percentage, making only six errors in 158 games. Others relying on more advanced metrics and insist Seattle’s Brendan Ryan was the best shortstop – then again, even though awards are strictly for fielding, players who don’t produce at the plate often get bypassed, and Ryan hit a weak .194. Hardy hit 22 home runs.
”I’ve always hoped but I never expected it,” Hardy said. ”It’s definitely an award I’ve seen a lot of shortstops get that are really flashy and kind of catch the eye of a lot of people. I don’t look at myself that way. I kind of look at myself as just trying to be consistent and steady. I never felt like people noticed.”
Wieters, meanwhile, was chosen despite leading AL catchers with 10 errors. He was recognized for the many things he does well – he threw out 39 percent of would-be basestealers and rarely let pitches get past him.
Strong-armed St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina won for the fifth straight year and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira added his fifth award. Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre, Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Miami pitcher Mark Buehrle became four-time winners.
”I think I’m just regular, above average, just like the other guys. I just love playing the position every night,” Beltre said. ”I take my position as a challenge and want to make every play I can. I don’t see myself as that good.”
Buehrle won three times with the Chicago White Sox before joining the Marlins last winter.
”With a whole new group of managers voting for you, it wasn’t like it was handed to you,” Buehrle said. ”The Gold Glove gets to be, `He won it last year, give it to him again.’ This one means a lot, because switching leagues, it was different managers voting on it. I had to do my job to earn it.”
The other first-time winners in the National League were Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche, Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney and Atlanta right fielder Jason Heyward.
”I’m extremely thrilled,” Barney said. ”It’s something you came into the season working toward, but it’s not something that 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 out there, obviously, and I’m really surprised that ended up happening for me. So it’s an exciting night for me.”
In the AL, pitchers Jake Peavy of the White Sox and Jeremy Hellickson shared the honor as first-time winners. This was only the third time since the Gold Gloves were first presented in 1957 that there was a tie – there were four NL outfielders in 2007 and four AL outfielders in 1985.
Also winning this year: Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, Kansas City left fielder Alex Gordon and Colorado left fielder Carlos Gonzalez.
Several players were rewarded for their wins.
Beltre received a $100,000 bonus and Hardy got $75,000, Gordon, LaRoche, Molina, Peavy and Rollins each added $50,000; Gonzalez, Jones and McCutchen $25,000 apiece.
In addition, Gordon’s salaries for 2014 and 2015 increase by $250,000 a year to $10.25 million and $12.75 million. His 2016 player option also rises by $250,000 to $12.75 million.