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Some see Jeter’s win as an error

Latest Gold Glove sparks debate on award’s merits

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / November 10, 2010

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If your Internet access slowed a bit yesterday afternoon, blame those managers and coaches who voted for Derek Jeter as the American League Gold Glove shortstop.

Jeter’s surprising selection set off a wave of web-borne commentary, criticism, and quips.

“Nobody who really follows baseball believes that Jeter is an outstanding defensive player,’’ wrote Rob Neyer on ESPN.com.

Aaron Gleeman, writing for Hardball Talk on the NBC Sports website, was harsh in his assessment.

“The notion that Jeter, at age 36, was the best defensive shortstop in the American League this season is simply absurd,’’ Gleeman wrote. “He just isn’t. This is as close to a fact as something relatively subjective can get.’’

A popular Yankees blog, River Ave. Blues, found the award undeserved.

“His winning simply highlights how the Gold Glove process is broken,’’ Benjamin Kabak wrote. “Few, if any, Yankee fans would put forward a compelling argument that Jeter deserves the award.’’

The Associated Press wrote that Jeter’s fifth Gold Glove could set off a debate as to whether the award is even relevant. Even Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King chimed in on Twitter.

“If Jeter can win a Gold Glove, think Wade Phillips can win Coach of the Year?’’ he wrote.

According to the Ultimate Zone Rating statistic kept by FanGraphs.com., Jeter was seventh among the nine American League shortstops with enough innings to qualify.

The 10-person panel that selects the Fielding Bible Awards, a group that includes Peter Gammons and Bill James, did not give as much as a 10th-place vote to Jeter.

Baseball Reference.com, using an advanced statistic called “total zone total fielding runs above average’’ had Jeter’s defensive skills rated dead last among shortstops.

When Jeter was announced as the winner, the usually nonpartisan Baseball Reference website had “we can’t believe it either’’ next to his name before the comment was taken down.

Jeter had just six errors and a career-best .989 fielding percentage, but those numbers reflect more his lack of range than his skill. Many observers felt that Elvis Andrus of the Rangers deserved the award.

“It is a tremendous honor to receive the Gold Glove award, especially since this recognition comes from managers and coaches for whom I have a great deal of respect,’’ Jeter said in a statement.

The other winners generated only minimal criticism. Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners won for the 10th consecutive year. Seattle center fielder Franklin Gutierrez was a first-time winner.

Yankees Robinson Cano (second base) and Mark Teixeira (first base) joined Jeter as winners. Evan Longoria (Rays) repeated at third base. Catcher Joe Mauer (Twins) won for the third time. Pitcher Mark Buehrle of the White Sox won for the second time.

Tampa Bay left fielder Carl Crawford was another first-time winner. The Red Sox are among the teams that could pursue Crawford in free agency.

“Just kind of waiting around to see what happens,’’ Crawford said during a conference call. “My agent hasn’t told me anything yet, so we’re not rushing. We’re just kind of sitting back waiting.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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