If you are a fan of the Chicago Cubs, and why would you be reading this blog if you are not, you would know that one member of the team has been chasing down a very prestigious record. Darwin Barney has been playing tremendous defense at second base all season long, and has betting getting quite a bit of recognition. Not only has he shattered the Cubs single season record for consecutive errorless games for a second baseman in a single season, which was previously held by Cubs Hall of Fame Cubs player Ryne Sandberg, but he also shattered the record held by David Eckstein who used to hold the National League mark. Now, Barney is chasing down the all-time record for a Major League second baseman held by Placido Polanco which stands at 141 games. With Barney currently sitting on a streak of 131 games (thanks to today’s home field scoring on a play which should have been recorded as an error), he needs just 10 more errorless games to tie, and 11 more to set the new mark. With 16 games left to play in the 2012 season, he can easily set the new mark. In case you are wondering, Polanco also holds the record for most consecutive errorless games at second base for a career. That record is 186, which was set over the span of a three year period.
With Barney chasing records with his spectacular defense, there has been much talk about him being a serious contender for the Gold Glove award this season. Statistically speaking, there is no greater defensive second baseball in all of baseball this year, in either league. For that matter, using the defensive WAR (wins above replacement) statistic, Barney is the best defender in all of baseball, regardless of position. Knowing these statistics, how could anyone disagree that Barney should be the Gold Glove winner for second baseman this season.
In the case of the more reasonable Barney, while he has played nearly flawless defense all year, he lacks certain qualifications that generally go along with the award. Unfortunately, even though the award is for defensive players who have set themselves apart their colleagues, the offensive figures usually come into play when there are two candidates who are neck and neck for the award. Looking at Barney’s offensive stat line, there is much to be desired.
Another problem is Barney lacks the flash and the web gems that Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds is always throwing around in games. Phillips makes the impressive looking plays where he throws the ball over his shoulder or through his legs, the plays that get recognized on Sports Center and get him noticed across the nation for all the players and managers to see. Phillips goes out there with the sole purpose to get himself noticed, and that is why he is the heavy favorite to win the award, despite Barney’s record setting performances.
Until Saturday, when he made two plays worthy of the Gold Glove award, you would be hard pressed to find very many defensive gems that have gotten Barney much recognition. He has been very much under the radar all season long for his impressive defensive prowess, even though he has gotten some national talk about setting these records. But like with Eckstein, setting the National League record may not be enough to earn the honor. However, when Polanco set the Major League mark in 2007, he did win the Gold Glove. So keep your fingers crossed that setting the Major League mark will be enough, because if the voters are going to be swayed by the flash and the offensive statistics, Barney will be left behind and passed over.
I would not be surprised if Barney wins the award this year, as statistically he deserves to receive the honor. On the other hand, I would also not be surprised to see him passed over. I am sure that he will get his fair share of votes, even if he does not gather enough. The good news though, is even if he does get passed over; with all of his accomplishments he will be a front runner for the award next year if he is able to continue playing this outstanding defense. This year, win or lose, Barney will get his name out there, and the players and managers will remember him.
Earlier, Rice Cube made his predictions on who would win every win every post season award, and yes, he does believe that Barney should be the hands down favorite to win the award. Let’s hope his predictions come true, as there really is no more deserving player in all of baseball to win a Gold Glove than Barney!