BALTIMORE -- The Orioles' defense -- a lingering issue for the first half of the season -- improved markedly down the stretch as the club put together an impressive 2012 campaign deserving of many accolades.
On Tuesday night, those awards started coming in, as Rawlings announced that shortstop J.J. Hardy, center fielder Adam Jones and catcher Matt Wieters were named this year's American League Gold Glove Award recipients for defensive excellence at their respective positions. The news came as part of a televised unveiling on ESPN2.
"It's an honor to watch them every night," manager Buck Showalter -- a favorite for AL Manager of the Year -- said of his club's Major League-leading three winners. "That's something I'd really like to be known as, that if you can't defend, you're going to have a tough time playing for the Baltimore Orioles.
"And all three of these guys take huge pride in their defense. It's a pretty good reputation to have. Those are three guys who take [the defensive] side of the ball very seriously."
Other than the Orioles, only the Yankees had more than one winner. The Gold Glove is a first in Hardy's career and is the second for Jones (also in 2009) and Wieters, who has now won in back-to-back seasons.
Hardy's first career Gold Glove comes after a season in which he led AL shortstops in games (158), fielding percentage (.992), putouts (244), assists (529), range factor per game (4.89), defensive wins above replacement (2.8) and total zone runs (21). He made just six errors in 779 chances at the position, and his .992 fielding percentage was the highest mark by an AL shortstop since Mike Bordick's .998 for the Orioles in 2002.
"It means a lot to me for one," Hardy said. "It's definitely an award I've always hoped to get, never really expected to do it, never really expected to get it. I'm surprised and honored at the same time."
Why didn't Hardy think he had a chance? By his own assessment, he's not a flashy guy.
"I kind of look at myself as try to be consistent and steady and never felt like people noticed," he said. "Buck would always talk about it, and I think that was a big part of me getting noticed."
"I happen to think J.J.'s substance is his style," Showalter said of Hardy, who led all AL shortstops in fielding percentage and range factor per game the last two seasons.
Additionally, Hardy's 529 assists were the most by an AL shortstop since Cal Ripken Jr. had 531 for the Orioles in 1989. Hardy is the fourth Baltimore shortstop to win a Gold Glove, joining Luis Aparicio (1964 and '66), Mark Belanger ('69, '71, '73-78) and Ripken ('91-92).
Jones, named the Most Valuable Oriole by members of the local media, led AL center fielders in games (162) and putouts (439), ranking second in range factor per game (2.75) and third in assists (seven). He is one of three Orioles outfielders who have won Gold Glove Awards, with Paul Blair winning in 1967 and 1969-75 and Nick Markakis earned the selection last season.
"This one is I'd say earned, because the team won," said Jones, who beat out Angels rookie phenom Mike Trout to win his second Gold Glove. "We, all 52 guys that were in our uniform this year, we played hard every day. ... It's a team award. We all made each other better, and it's appreciated."
Wieters, who joined Jones at this year's All-Star Game, led the league in defensive games (134) and putouts (994), ranked second in runners caught stealing (32) and range factor per game (7.81) and was third in caught stealing percentage (38.6). His 994 putouts were the third most in AL history for a catcher and the most since Jorge Posada had 996 for the Yankees in 2001.
"It's a huge honor and something to where it's great to be thought of defensively as one of the best catchers out there," said Wieters, who is the only Orioles catcher to receive a Gold Glove. "To win it back-to-back is a great honor. I take a lot of pride in my defense and in working hard and getting better, and I think what we were able to do this season showed we were able to do that."
It is the 18th season the Orioles have had multiple Gold Glove winners in the same year, and their most since 1998, when second baseman Roberto Alomar, pitcher Mike Mussina and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro all took home the honors. It is the ninth time in club history the O's have had at least three players win a Gold Glove in the same season (also 1998, '76, '75, '74, '73, '71, '70 and '69).
Sixteen different Orioles players have earned a total of 64 Gold Gloves since the award was created in 1957, second most in the AL, one fewer than the New York Yankees (65) and 22 more than the next-closest AL team, the Minnesota Twins (42).