Trio of Red Sox win American League Gold Gloves

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Rawlings unveiled the 2011 Gold Glove award winners this evening, but things didn’t go exactly as planned. The new award show was going to be televised on ESPN2 at 10 p.m. ET, but it was pushed back for about 45 minutes due to a high-scoring college football game between Northern Illinois University and Toledo. Once the show finally got underway, the full list of award winners leaked via the Associated Press and I’m going to assume whoever was watching probably turned the channel to a Seinfeld re-run or something. Nice try, Rawlings. Better luck next year?

Anyway, we’ll start with the American League winners and do a separate post for the National League. Keep in mind that we have one winner for each outfield position for the very first time:

C – Matt Wieters, Orioles (first Gold Glove)
1B – Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox (third Gold Glove)
2B – Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (second Gold Glove)
SS – Erick Aybar, Angels (first Gold Glove)
3B – Adrian Beltre, Rangers (third Gold Glove)
LF – Alex Gordon, Royals (first Gold Glove)
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox (first Gold Glove)
RF – Nick Markakis, Orioles (first Gold Glove)
P – Mark Buehrle, White Sox (third Gold Glove)

Ellsbury, Pedroia and Gonzalez give the Red Sox three winners in the same season for the first time since Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn and Rick Burleson won at their respective positions back in 1979.

I refuse to get worked up over the voting, because really, it’s pointless, but Alex Gordon topping Brett Gardner in left field is probably the biggest surprise of the bunch. Gordon led American League outfielders with 20 assists in 2011, his first season as a full-time outfielder, but Gardner is about as good as you can get in left field and would make a great center fielder if Curtis Granderson wasn’t around. Here’s your biggest head scratcher of the evening.

I would have preferred J.J. Hardy over Erick Aybar at shortstop, but it’s nice to see his teammate Matt Wieters get recognized for his excellent contributions behind the plate. The 25-year-old threw out 37 percent of baserunners this season, topped only by Miguel Montero among qualified MLB catchers. While it hasn’t happened as quickly as some expected, Wieters is well on his way to emerging as one of the better all-around players in the American League.

* The original post gave the impression that MLB unveils the Gold Glove award winners. For accuracy’s sake, I wanted to make it clear that this is Rawlings’ show. 

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.