Through the roller coaster of their 2021 season, the Cardinals entrusted their defense as their most steadying force. As it turned out, their defense was historically unrivaled.
They are the first team in history to have five Gold Glove winners from a single squad.
Third baseman Nolan Arenado, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, left fielder Tyler O'Neill, center fielder Harrison Bader and second baseman Tommy Edman took home the Rawlings National League Gold Glove Award at their respective positions, as announced on Sunday evening -- a feather in the cap of a season in which St. Louis led the Majors in defensive runs saved.
For Bader and Edman, the award is the first of their careers. For the others, it’s an addition to some already sensational defensive résumés. Arenado won his ninth in a row, O’Neill his second consecutive and Goldschmidt his first since 2017 and fourth overall.
Only catcher Yadier Molina -- winner of nine Gold Gloves -- finished as a finalist for the Cardinals but did not win, falling short to Jacob Stallings of the Pirates, who led NL backstops in defensive runs saved this year. Molina will get one more chance to hit double digits in 2022, which is set to be his final season.
The five Cardinals winners took Gold Gloves paths of varying meaning:
Center fielder Harrison Bader
First Gold Glove
Bader proclaimed it in Spring Training -- “I want one. I want one more than anything” -- and put truth to his words in the months that followed.
Leading the Majors in four-star catches, per Statcast, and topping NL outfielders in ultimate zone rating (11.4) and placing second in defensive runs saved (15), the flashy Bader captured what has appeared to be a long-deserved recognition. He was a finalist in 2019 but put a complete résumé together en route to clinching his first award in ’21.
Bader is the first Cardinals center fielder to win a Gold Glove since one of his mentors, Jim Edmonds, won it in 2005.
Second baseman Tommy Edman
First Gold Glove
The student has become the master.
Years behind Kolten Wong in the Cardinals’ system, which included spending this past offseason together working on the fields at St. Louis University, have paid off fruitfully for Edman. The former utilityman found a home at second base this season, led the Majors in outs above average at the position (13) and ended Wong’s reign of two consecutive Gold Gloves (both as a Cardinal).
What’s more, Edman had played only 37 Major League games at second before this season. Only four players in AL/NL history (excluding rookies and pitchers) have played fewer games at their position entering the season they won the Gold Glove, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Third baseman Nolan Arenado
Ninth Gold Glove
The first offensive season in Arenado’s Cardinals tenure was impressive but left room for improvement, as he admitted. The defense? There was no lag. Arenado -- "Nolan being Nolan," as it's become coined -- has captured his ninth consecutive Gold Glove to join some illustrious company.
Arenado becomes the second player to begin a career with at least nine consecutive Gold Gloves (joining Ichiro Suzuki, who had 10 straight); has made himself third all-time among third basemen, trailing Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10); and is the first Cardinal to win the award at the hot corner since Scott Rolen in 2006 and the fifth individual to do so in franchise history.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt
Fourth Gold Glove
No player was more central to the defensive staunchness of the Cardinals this season than Goldschmidt. The pair of viral double plays they turned during their 17-game win streak? Each was prompted by him. But for the past three years, Goldschmidt had to watch rival Anthony Rizzo take home the hardware; the two are the only NL first basemen to win since 2015. With Rizzo a midseason trade to the American League, the pendulum has swung back.
It’s the first Gold Glove in Goldschmidt’s Cardinals tenure, making him the first Redbird first baseman to win it since Albert Pujols in 2010. Goldschmidt, Pujols, Keith Hernandez and Bill White are the only four Gold Glove-winning first basemen in franchise history.
Left fielder Tyler O’Neill
Second Gold Glove
A bit of a surprise victor in 2020, there was little shock of O’Neill’s triumph in 2021. The left fielder dazzled with his defense, not shy to put his body on the line to make a game-saving catch as he led all Major League left fielders with 12 defensive runs saved. His second consecutive Gold Glove came amid a wholesale breakout season, with a 150 OPS+ to boot and chatter of down-ballot MVP votes to come.