When Milwaukee Brewers centerfielder Carlos Gomez transformed a would-be Joey Votto game-winning home run into a loud, game-ending out and preserved the Brewers’ win Monday night, it was among the best defensive plays of the season to date. For anyone fortunate enough to witness Gomez patrol center with any regularity, the amazing sight was also not an uncommon one.
Including the now-viral Votto putout, Gomez has robbed an MLB-leading four home runs so far this season (two is the next most for any other player) while making a flurry of other difficult plays seem routine by way of his speed and expert routes to the ball. Largely on the weigh of his defensive prowess, Gomez has amassed a National League-leading five WAR (wins above replacement) en route to his first All-Star Game appearance. Barring injury or a drastic defensive downturn in the second half, Go-Go is all but a shoe-in to claim a Gold Glove and, in doing so, end the longest ongoing drought between defensive accolades endured by big league franchise.
Since Robin Yount, then a shortstop, took home a Gold Glove during the team’s storied AL pennant-winning 1982 season, no gold lamé glove-shaped trophy has been bestowed upon a Brewers player. During that ongoing 30-year period, players from every other team have won the award — including the much younger Rockies, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rays, and Nationals. Even Expos players stocked up before the team vanished into oblivion. In the same time frame, two sibling pairs, one father-son combo and a guy with the moniker “Pokey” (twice!) have won Gold Glove Awards.
Chuck Knoblauch has gone gold more recently than any Brewers employee has. To put this unmatched stretch into perspective, current Milwaukee elder statesman Aramis Ramirez was four years old when Yount won his Gold Glove. Gomez was three years from birth.
Being an individual honor that’s given annually to a combined 18 players who occupy all nine positions on the diamond, the odds of the award completely dodging one organization since Ronald Reagan’s first presidential term are steep. The cause is a mixture of bad luck, predominately poor team performance and fundamental flaws in the Golden Glove voting process.
Of the 543 Gold Gloves distributed since The Kid got his in ‘82, more than 10 percent were awarded to Hall Of Famers, with almost as many belonging to unquestioned future Cooperstown inductees like Greg Maddux (18), Ivan Rodriquez (13), Ken Griffey Jr. (10), Derek Jeter (five), Craig Biggio (four) and Albert Pujols (2). Plus, renowned defensive stalwarts with probable HOF status like Ichiro Suzuki and Omar Vizquel have amassed 10 and nine such awards respectively. Obviously, defense is important in building a player’s Hall Of Fame case. But league wide notoriety and a player’s past glove work also seem to aid a player when it comes time to hand out the hardware, which doesn’t bode well for a franchise that hitched its wagon to default 1990s and early aught “stars” like Greg Vaughn, John Jaha, Jeromy Burnitz, Richie Sexson and Mike Fetters.
Predictably, a team that occupied its roster with the above unmarketable players, and has just four winning seasons and a pair of postseason appearances since its last Gold Glove winner retired, isn’t a huge voter-getter. It’s not the All-Star Game; not every team gets a representative, and Corey Hart won’t get one because Jason Heyward doesn’t want it.
Similar to the All-Star Game, Gold Glove voting methods are suspect at best. The award selection is the product of coach and manager votes, lending an underlying predisposition to play favorites and repeat past winners. As Geoff Jenkins quietly enjoyed an error-free, 11 outfield assist season in 2003 (in which Milwaukee won 68 games) and a one-error, 10-assist 2004 campaign (67 wins), repeat winners Jim Edmonds, Andruw Jones and Steve Finley were inheriting the continued fruits of their late ‘90s labor.
Really, Milwaukee’s three-decade (and counting) Gold Glove drought is the perfect storm of bad baseball played by unpopular players overlooked by people who still value pitching wins and “gamer” status. Though the Brewers are mired in another awful season, an increased awareness of defensive importance and a growing highlight reel of undeniably incredible Carlos Gomez mitt mastery seems to suggest Milwaukee might finally be on the brink of a gold rush.