When it comes to second basemen in Chicago, defense has always been a key component. The White Sox had the first ever AL Gold Glove winner at second base in Nellie Fox, who won it three times, while the Cubs had Ryne Sandberg win nine consecutive NL Gold Glove awards.
This season, each side of town has a real chance to put more second base Gold Glove awards in their trophy cases, as Gordon Beckham of the White Sox and Darwin Barney of the Cubs are each having fantastic seasons in the field.
On the south side, Sox fans are used to seeing Gold Glove caliber defense from Beckham, as many believe that he was robbed of the award last year due to the fact that he was not as big a household name as some of his competition. However, in many respects, his 2012 campaign has been better with the glove than his 2011 one, as he currently has a higher fielding percentage (ok, .990 compared to .989, but still, it’s higher) and is on pace to make fewer errors (currently has five, made eight last season). He also leads AL second basemen in putouts and is second in Range Factor ((assists + putouts)/ innings played) and double plays turned.
Some players are better than Beckham in certain categories, but none of them are as near the top in each one like Beckham is. After last season’s performance, it’s very possible that he’s now entered the minds of baseball writers as a premier glove at the position, and he’s more likely to get those votes he most deserves.
Heading up North a few miles, Darwin Barney has been flashing the leather himself. He’s already broken Sandberg’s franchise record 90 straight games at second base without an error, as he’s at 97 games and counting. He’s just made one error all season long, giving him the fewest errors and best fielding percentage in baseball for qualifying second basemen. In addition, with Omar Infante’s trade to Detroit, he now leads NL second basemen in RF with an astounding 5.25 rating.
When you look at the numbers and take the eye test, there’s no doubt Barney is the most deserving man in the NL for the second base Gold Glove award. He will have the challenge Beckham had last season, as he is not a recognizable name either, but he’s been such a steady defensive player at the position compared to everyone else in the NL that it might not even matter at all.
Even with a tradition of defense at the position, both sides of town have had long Gold Glove droughts. The Cubs do have three winners (Sandberg nine times, Glenn Beckert in 1968 and Ken Hubbs in 1962), but have not had a winner at the position since Sandberg’s last award in 1991. As for the Sox, they’ve had some great defenders at the position like Joey Cora and Ray Durham, but have not at a Gold Glove second baseman since Fox’s last of his three GG’s in 1960.
With the seasons Beckham and Barney are having, don’t be surprised of those droughts come not only to an end, but to an end for a few seasons. As long as they stay in Chicago, the potential for consecutive Gold Gloves is certainly not out of the question.