Mariners’ 37-year-old right fielder hasn’t lost any of his defensive wizardry
Its happened many times in baseball.
Players age, and even if they can retain their offensive skills, their defensive abilities start to slip.
Thats part of what makes Ichiro Suzukis 10th consecutive American League Gold Glove in right field for the Mariners so amazing.
The 37-year-old has lost a bit of first-step speed. But he still covers ground exceptionally well, well enough that he joins Ken Griffey Jr. and Detroits Al Kaline as the only 10-time Gold Glove winners in AL history.
Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays hold the big league record with a dozen wins each in the National League, and another NL defensive whiz, Andruw Jones, also won 10 awards.
This is the second defensive award for Ichiro this month, following his recognition as the top right fielder Major League Baseball by the Fielding Bible.
Joining Ichiro as a Gold Glove honoree is teammate Franklin Gutierrez. He was voted as the top center fielder in the AL.
The awards come from two vastly different sources. Gold Gloves are voted on by managers. Fielding Bible awards are voted on by a small group of statisticians and writers.
But the Ichiro story is only one half of the age-vs.-decline issue.
Derek Jeter, the Yankees shortstop, is just one year younger than Ichiro at 36. He won his fifth Gold Glove despite suggestions that he not close to being the shortstop he once was.
The Yankee captain won despite having a UZR (ultimate zone rating) of -4.7, a statistic that suggests he was well below average this year. While his error total was low, Jeter had just 553 total chances in 151 games, 178 chances fewer than in his best season.
When the Fielding Bible awards were handed out earlier in the month an award for which range is a major consideration Jeter didnt get a single vote, although 20 other big league shortstops did.
Gutierrez probably should have won the award last year, his first in center for the Mariners, but he was topped by Baltimores Adam Jones. This year, Gutierrez wasnt to be denied.
The complete team: P Mark Buehrle, White Sox; C Joe Mauer, Twins; 1B Mark Teixeira, Yankees; 2b Robinson Cano, Yankees; SS Derek Jeter, Yankees; 3B Evan Longoria, Rays; LF Carl Crawford, Rays; CF Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners; RF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners.
John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)