Wright, Beltran win Gold Glove Awards
Mets third baseman earns his second, center fielder his third
The Gold Glove was the third straight in center field for Beltran, who now has a total of three for his career, and the second consecutive at third base for Wright, who won his first last season.
"I take a lot of pride in being a complete player," Beltran said on Wednesday in a statement. "Even on the days when I don't get a hit, I feel I can make a difference in the field."
League managers and coaches, who can't select their own players, vote each year on the award, which recognizes one player from each league for all nine positions on the diamond.
This year's award provided reason for pride for Wright, who endured criticism after he won his first Gold Glove last season -- despite ranking seventh among National League third basemen with a .954 fielding percentage. Wright improved both his standing and his percentage this season, finishing fourth in the NL with a .962 mark.
Wright tied for the league lead among third basemen with 416 total chances, and he did not commit an error over a span of 36 consecutive games from Aug. 7 to Sept. 16. It was one of three error-free stretches of at least 28 straight games for Wright.
Beltran, meanwhile, continued the steady defense that has become a trademark during his time with the Mets, finishing third in the NL with eight outfield assists. Beltran ranked third among center fielders with a .993 fielding percentage, and first with 429 chances. He is now tied with shortstop Rey Ordonez for the second-most Gold Gloves in Mets history, ranking behind Keith Hernandez, who won six of them at first base.
Beltran tied for the final outfield Gold Glove Award last season, but he won it outright this year. He joined fellow center fielders Shane Victorino and Nate McLouth, both of whom were first-time winners in 2008. This season marked the first in 11 years that Dodgers center fielder Andruw Jones, formerly of the Braves, did not win a Gold Glove.
Given the overall success of the Mets on defense -- they finished third in the NL with a .986 fielding percentage -- the individual successes of Beltran and Wright came hardly as a shock. Yet that didn't mean they provided any measure of solace after a season that saw the Mets again fall a game shy of qualifying for the postseason.
"Individual awards are nice," Wright said in a statement, "but, for me, my entire focus is on the team and getting back to the playoffs."
One of Wright's primary competitors for the Gold Glove last season was seven-time winner Scott Rolen, who has since moved to the American League, clearing Wright's path for a second consecutive award. With Rolen out of the picture, Wright needed only to finish above Troy Glaus of the Cardinals and Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Padres to claim this year's honor. No other NL third baseman played even close to as many innings with as much statistical success as Wright.
Yet Wright's standing among his peers was not nearly so high last season, when he narrowly bested a strong field at the position. Fellow third baseman Chipper Jones called it a "head-scratcher" that Wright won, pointing to Pedro Feliz and Aramis Ramirez as other worthy candidates.
"It's not like I was voting for myself," Wright said at the time. "There aren't too many people out there that can say they won a Gold Glove, whether there are questions behind it or not. It's unexpected as any individual award is unexpected, but I'm going to put that right in the middle of my trophy case."
And now he'll have to balance two of them.
That's one fewer than Beltran, who needed to dodge a few additional obstacles en route to his third consecutive Gold Glove. Ranking behind McLouth, Victorino and former Met Mike Cameron in fielding percentage among center fielders, Beltran also had to deal with a few strong candidates -- including Hunter Pence of the Astros and Ryan Braun of the Brewers -- at the corner outfield positions. Yet a good reputation never hurts, and Beltran boasts a more extensive defensive resume than any of the other top candidates.
This year's NL Gold Glove team was stocked with first-time winners, as well, including McLouth, Victorino, catcher Yadier Molina of the Cardinals, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres and second baseman Brandon Phillips of the Reds. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins won his second consecutive award, and Dodgers pitcher Greg Maddux won his 18th Gold Glove -- and fifth straight -- on the mound.
The 2008 season marked the 52nd year of the Gold Glove Award. The first were awarded in 1957 to one player at each position combined from both leagues, then expanded the following year to include a lineup of nine players from each league.