GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Often bashed for not being able to reach his offensive potential, Gordon Beckham also now can’t get any love for the things he does well.
Take his growth as a defensive second baseman over the last two seasons, and last season in particular. Beckham’s .9899 fielding percentage at second base was the second best mark in Chicago White Sox history at the position behind Nellie Fox’s .9901 mark in 1962.
It left him fourth in the American League in fielding, but didn’t earn him a mention among the Gold Glove Award finalists last season.
“I’d like to be in the conversation for sure,” Beckham said. “I wasn’t a finalist last year and that was frustrating but it’s not really the end-all, be-all. It’s not really a big deal. I’ll hit better this year and then win a Gold Glove.”
Ah yes, the old good-fielders-who-also-can-hit-win-Gold Gloves argument. Beckham was saying it in jest, but it’s obvious he feels that other factors besides fielding go into the Gold Glove Awards.
“It’s just a joke,” Beckham insisted.
So is the Gold Glove a true representation of the best fielders in the league?
“I’m not saying it’s not; I’m saying it is,” Beckham said. “I’m just saying that people have great offensive seasons. And it’s not a knock on anybody that wins it because the coaches vote on it. But I think when you see good offense you immediately think good defense maybe.
“(The Yankees’ Robinson) Cano won it (at second base) last year and he’s good. It’s not like he’s not worthy of a Gold Glove. I think he is. I’m just saying that it is a fielding award and I felt like I was slighted a little bit because of the offensive year I had. It wasn’t stellar. But that’s neither here nor there.”
Yet there are ways to win a Gold Glove without offense. Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney won a National League Gold Glove at second base, parlaying the best fielding percentage in baseball at his position with an errorless streak that reached 141 games.
Of the three AL Gold Glove finalists at second base, two of them -- Cano and the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia -- had a better fielding percentage than Beckham. The Mariners’ Dustin Ackley was percentage points behind Beckham’s fielding mark.
But Cano, Pedroia and Ackley all had a defensive WAR that was better than Beckham’s. In fact, Beckham’s defensive WAR was actually a negative number, leaving him nowhere near the leaders in the defensive metric, which includes range and the ability to save runs in its calculations.
So while it has been impressive that Beckham is among the fielding percentage leaders at a position he switched to just a few years ago, there still seems to be room for improvement. And if the entire team can field to its potential, it could be another X factor in the White Sox’s quest for a playoff berth.
With Tyler Flowers taking over for A.J. Pierzynski at catcher and Jeff Keppinger expected to get the bulk of the time at third base, manager Robin Ventura stopped short of saying this year’s team should be better on defense than last year’s.
“You always want it to be better, but it’s being consistent with it as far as the approach when they come into the season,” Ventura said. “I like to hear that Alexei (Ramirez wants to get better). He improved last year as the season went along and you always want to be better. You wait and see on assumptions like that but you’d like it to be.”
Ramirez gave Beckham a serious compliment when it comes to defense.
“I think Gordon plays a great second base, (Alejandro) De Aza plays a great center field, and if I can be as good as them, then I think we are really a strong core defensively,” Ramirez said.
Beckham raised an eyebrow at the thought that Ramirez wants to meet his standard on defense.
“I never heard that,” Beckham said. “Alexei and I, we do work hard. There’s always room for improvement. He’s really good. I think he’s being a little hard on himself for the whole year last year. But yeah that means a lot.
“I think he saw the way I worked and sees what I put into it every day and that’s what helps me, my routine. I do it every day the same every day and it helps me to be a better player because I see everything I’m going to see in the game before the game even starts. In the game it’s just reaction.”
Beckham can either feel slighted about his defense or he can take yet another step toward making it better.
“I do think our defense is up there with the best in the league,” Beckham said. “Last year, what was it, the best team fielding percentage? I think it was. That keeps us off the field and gets the pitchers off the field and gives them rest and gives us a chance to win games.”