Gomez ends Crew's 31-year Gold Glove drought
Center fielder becomes Milwaukee's first honoree since Yount in 1982
BOSTON -- Carlos Gomez waited five years for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award he expected to win with the Twins in 2008.
That was nothing. For the Brewers, the wait was 31 years.
When Gomez was awarded the Gold Glove as the National League's top center fielder on Tuesday, he became the first Milwaukee player to take home the award since Robin Yount won as a shortstop in 1982, when Yount was a soon-to-be American League MVP and the Brewers were still licking their wounds from a Game 7 loss to the Cardinals in the World Series.
It had been a long time, and Gomez knew it.
That player beat fellow finalists Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates (last year's winner) and Denard Span of the Nationals under a new system of voting that combines the old way -- managers' and coaches' votes -- with advanced metrics. For the first time, Rawlings collaborated with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) to formally incorporate five defensive measures to the process, accounting for about 25 percent of the final vote.
It turns out that Gomez excelled in both the old school and new school. For the eye test, he made at least four and perhaps five home run-robbing catches, including two that ended Brewers victories over the Reds at Miller Park.
And for the numbers folks, Gomez was also a worthy pick. According to FanGraphs.com, he led all outfielders with 38 defensive runs saved in 2013, trailing only Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (42) among Major League players. The next highest center fielder was Arizona's A.J. Pollock with 15 runs saved. McCutchen's DRS was seven, and Span's was three.
Gomez also fared well in ultimate zone rating, which attempts to measure a fielder's success in converting balls in his "zone" into outs. Gomez led the Majors with a 24.4 UZR, with Pollock again second (17.4) and Span (10.2) and McCutchen (6.9) trailing.
Both of those metrics were included in the SABR component of this year's Gold Glove tally.
"I don't even know about this," Gomez said of the stats. "Only the people who do this understand it. The only thing that I know is that every time I step into center field, I'm watching and concentrating to try to save runs and make the right moves to catch the ball."
He said his favorite catch was not the home run robberies of Marlon Byrd, Carlos Gonzalez, John Mayberry Jr., Joey Votto or potentially Jay Bruce (players debated that one in the Brewers' own clubhouse), but a grab short of the wall in June in Houston, where Gomez climbed Tal's Hill in center field to take extra bases away from the Astros' Jason Castro. He made a sensational grab, rose to his knees and held his glove high in the air.
"I had to run a lot to this ball, and the hill made it tough," Gomez said. "I think that was the best play that I did this year."
The play that probably defined his season came at Votto's expense on July 8 at Miller Park. The Brewers led by a run, but the Reds had a runner on base with two outs when Votto sent a deep drive to straightaway center field, where Gomez perfectly timed his leap to pull back what would have been a go-ahead home run and instead end the game.
"The next day, I see Votto practicing on defense and he says, 'Hey Gomez, what are you doing?'" Gomez remembered. "He came to me and said, 'Great play, man. Continue to do the job. You're one of my favorites.' It's good to hear when one of the best players tells you that you're one of his favorites. It's really emotional. It makes you feel like you have to continue to work."
When Gomez learned he'd finally won a Gold Glove Award, he was just as emotional.
"I have a lot of things that go through my mind," Gomez said. "The last seven years, I believe I'm one of the best center fielders in the game. It's my job. In 2008, I expected to get it, but because I was not doing really good offensively, they didn't give it to me.
"This year, I did a better job, and they see it, like, I'm the best. And they gave me the award."
It is the 10th Gold Glove Award in Brewers history, including first baseman George Scott's five straight from 1972-76. The only Brewers outfielder to win before Gomez was Sixto Lezcano in 1979.
Gomez spoke via telephone from the Dominican Republic, where he is nearly two weeks removed from an Oct. 17 surgery to remove loose bodies from his right (throwing) elbow. Gomez was bothered by pain in that joint for most of the season, one of a myriad of ailments that was a result of his all-out style of play.
Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash characterized the procedure as minor, and Gomez reported significant improvement.
"It feels really good," he said. "We expect in two weeks to be throwing normal. If you see me, you don't think I had surgery a couple of weeks ago. But we have to go step by step. I'm not doing my rehab really aggressive. They want me to do it three days a week. We're going to take longer for safety. For Spring Training, I'll be 100 percent."