Pudge, Polanco win Gold Gloves
Catcher, second baseman rewarded for defensive prowess
DETROIT -- Thirteen Gold Gloves, and they're all still meaningful for Ivan Rodriguez. The first one is undoubtedly at least as special for Placido Polanco.
For the second straight season, the Tigers have two Gold Glove award winners, not exactly an old feat for a team that won one over its previous 16 seasons. This year's defensive duo, however, can view their honors from two different extremes.
Rodriguez's third Gold Glove award over four seasons in Detroit stretched his Major League record for catchers. Hall of Famer Johnny Bench is the only other catcher with double-digit Gold Gloves, having won 10 over the course of his career. Expanded to all positions except pitcher, Rodriguez's 13th Gold Glove ties him with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith for second all-time behind Brooks Robinson's 16 Gold Gloves at third base.
"I have a lot of baseball in me," Rodriguez said Tuesday. "I have good health, and I want to play this game a lot longer. To be compared with Ozzie Smith and all those guys who are already in the Hall of Fame, it's unbelievable. It's hard to believe that my name is up there with those people."
Rodriguez will turn 36 years old later this month. While he continued to climb the all-time list for games caught, all the way to third behind Carlton Fisk and Bob Boone, he overcame a rough start throwing out baserunners to regain his usual stingy form down the stretch.
Nine of the first 10 opponents to try to steal off of Rodriguez were successful, partly because Tigers pitchers struggled to hold runners. After that, however, Rodriguez threw out a third of would-be basestealers, improving his numbers as the season went along.
"Sometimes you have ups and downs," said Rodriguez, whose seven passed balls marked his highest total since 2003. "It was a situation sometime when you rush and you do things, you throw the ball where you don't want it. But in the end, you have to play the game hard. In the end, I just tried to do the things I've got to do to cut down the running game."
|2007 Gold Glove winners|
|C||Ivan Rodriguez, DET|
|1B||Kevin Youkilis, BOS|
|2B||Placido Polanco, DET|
|3B||Adrian Beltre, SEA|
|SS||Orlando Cabrera, LAA|
|OF||Ichiro Suzuki, SEA|
|OF||Torii Hunter, MIN|
|OF||Grady Sizemore, CLE|
|P||Johan Santana, MIN|
|C||Russell Martin, LAD|
|1B||Derrek Lee, CHC|
|2B||Orlando Hudson, ARI|
|3B||David Wright, NYM|
|SS||Jimmy Rollins, PHI|
|OF||Carlos Beltran, NYM|
|OF||Andruw Jones, ATL|
|OF||Jeff Francoeur, ATL|
|OF||Aaron Rowand, PHI|
|P||Greg Maddux, SD|
He finished with 19 runners thrown out compared to 47 bases stolen, for a caught-stealing percentage of 28.8. It was a drop from the 45.7 percentage he posted in 2006, yet it ranked fourth among American League catchers. Among Major Leaguers with at least 120 games caught, only Seattle's Kenji Johjima allowed fewer stolen bases.
Rodriguez also became the first catcher in Major League history to record 12,000 career putouts, reaching the mark during Justin Verlander's no-hitter on June 12.
It's no secret that Rodriguez takes a lot of pride in his defense. At this point in his career, however, it's about the total package. In addition to throwing out baserunners, he puts a priority on how he handles the pitching staff and how often he's available to play.
"That's why you work hard in the offseason, to get awards like that, to stay healthy during the season and try to do the things that you need to do," he said. "I take a lot of pride in my defense and playing day in and day out. I'm very happy. This [award] is very important for me. It's been a lot of ups and downs during the season.
Polanco's first Gold Glove was a product of statistically flawless play at second base. He hasn't been charged with an error since July 1, 2006, compiling 181 consecutive games and 888 total chances converted since. No other second baseman with at least 100 starts this past season committed less than five miscues.
"He's obviously a very sure-handed guy," manager Jim Leyland said during the season. "I can't say it any better than what I've said: He's a true baseball player in every sense of the word. Some guys are athletes. Some guys are baseball players. Sometimes you've got a combination of both."
All that earned him the first Gold Glove for a Tigers second baseman since Lou Whitaker in 1985. He's the fourth different second baseman in as many years to win the AL honor, the last being Kansas City's Mark Grudzielanek.
"I'm very happy for him," Rodriguez said of Polanco. "Of course, he's got to win. When you don't make an error, of course he's got to win. Any ground ball hit to Polanco, I know he's going to make a good play. The year that he had offensively and defensively, it's remarkable.
"It's not going to be the only one. He's going to have a lot more. I want to congratulate him."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.