Darwin Barney might be on track to win a Gold Glove as Reds top Cubs 3-1
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org September 18, 2012 10:32PM
Darwin Barney of the Cubs fields a grounder hit by Juan Uribe of the Dodgers in the seventh inning at Wrigley Field Friday, May 4, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: October 20, 2012 6:24AM
Alfonso Soriano stepped out from the Cubs’ dugout for batting practice Tuesday afternoon, shivered, smiled and proclaimed: ‘‘It’s playoff weather.’’
Maybe for the visiting Cincinnati Reds, who beat the Cubs 3-1 and are in first place in the National League Central.
For the Cubs, of course, ‘‘These guys are just going out right now to try to stay away from 100 losses,’’ manager Dale Sveum said.
But at least one Cub might have a good reason to look forward to the postseason.
In fact, second baseman Darwin Barney already might have won the Cubs’ postseason haul for the year, if a casual survey of opposing NL managers on Gold Glove voting means anything.
Four out of five polled in recent weeks say they already cast their votes for Barney to win his first Gold Glove.
The fifth hadn’t voted but suggested he was leaning toward Barney.
Another, Reds manager Dusty Baker, declined to reveal his vote. But considering he can’t vote for his own guy — two-time defending Gold Glove second baseman and preseason favorite Brandon Phillips — his vote shouldn’t hurt Barney’s chances, at least.
Either way, if there’s any drama for the Cubs in the chilled air of fast-approaching autumn, it might be the battle for the hardware between the league’s top two fielding second basemen.
Each manager and coach in the league gets a Gold Glove vote, and in a change this year, Major League Baseball included with the ballots detailed position-by-position fielding-stat breakdowns through Aug. 30 for all qualifiers — which highlighted Barney’s NL-record errorless streak (now 133 games) and impressive ‘‘ultimate zone rating per 150 games.’’
‘‘I voted for Barney,’’ Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ‘‘Phillips has obviously been the guy that you measure him against. He’s been steady; he’s made all the routine plays and made some above-average plays.’’
Said Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson, a three-time Gold Glove second baseman: ‘‘On reputation, I looked at Phillips of Cincinnati. He’s a little flashier. I’m more of a steady-Eddie type of guy. And I voted for Barney. Anybody that can have only one error at this point in the season. …’’
Baker, who calls Phillips ‘‘the best, day in and day out,’’ lauded Barney for noticeable improvement he has seen in the field just since last year.
‘‘Big time,’’ said Baker, who won a Gold Glove as an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers. ‘‘The hardest one to win is that first one because you’ve unseated somebody. I took more pride in winning a Gold Glove than a Silver [Slugger]. Hitting is fun, and playing defense is work.’’
Barney, in his second full season in the majors, said that was the idea going into spring training.
‘‘That was our [team] emphasis,’’ he said. ‘‘We were all embarrassed by our numbers defensively last year as a team, and we came in this year wanting to clean that up.’’
Barney has refined his game to such a degree that Sveum talks about Barney as a ‘‘game-changing’’ fielder and doesn’t hesitate when asked if he considers the converted shortstop a ‘‘core’’ player in the Cubs’ rebuilding effort — ‘‘There’s no question,’’ he said.
But even if most of the votes appear to be in, Phillips doesn’t seem willing to abdicate quietly.
‘‘There’s nothing like a Gold Glove,’’ he said, ‘‘because you’re out there with everybody else.
‘‘When you’re hitting, you’re just up there by yourself. That’s probably one of the best awards that a person can ever have.’’
On Barney, he said, ‘‘He’s having a good year.’’
He also points out the possible flaw in relying too much on stats in rating fielders.
‘‘Everybody goes off of errors. Everybody goes off of zone things,’’ he said, adding that defensive shifts can skew those ratings. ‘‘Some people have more range than others. … That’s the thing about me. I have a lot of range at second base, and the majority of my errors have been on plays that normal guys don’t get to. … [Voters] can pick who they want to pick.’’
Barney on Phillips: ‘‘He’s the best. There’s nothing else to say except for that.’’