Gonzalez scoops up first Gold Glove
First baseman is 10th Padres player to earn defensive honor
SAN DIEGO -- It's called the Gold Glove Award for a reason, though in the case of San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, his manager, Bud Black, would argue the throwing component is equally if not more important.
"Not only does he have good hands to field, but he stops rallies and runs with his ability to throw to all bases," Black said. "He plays an aggressive first base. ... He can change the momentum of an inning with his defense."
On Wednesday, Gonzalez was recognized for his work at first base when he earned his first Rawlings Gold Glove. He becomes the 10th Padre to win the award and the only first baseman in franchise history to do so.
Gonzalez, 26, joins the likes of Tony Gwynn, Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield to win the award. Pitcher Greg Maddux, traded to the Dodgers in August, won his 18th Gold Glove, the most of any player in Major League history.
As for Gonzalez, he didn't see this coming. Speaking to a group of reporters at PETCO Park, he said he was "surprised, especially with the candidates you hear about. I thought that it would be tough for me to get it."
The National League coaches and managers who voted on the award apparently thought otherwise, as they selected Gonzalez -- who had just six errors in 1,442 chances and also finished tied for first in the league with a .996 fielding percentage.
"He's a multidimensional defensive player," Black said. "We've seen him make throws to third base, across the diamond to thwart rallies. He takes pride in his defense and takes charge of the infield. He's got great defensive awareness."
Black marveled this season at Gonzalez's ability to make not only the routine 3-1 play at first base but the 3-6-3 and the 3-6-4 double play, all starting with his glove. But Black's favorite by far is Gonzalez's ability to get outs at third base with his arm, certainly not an easy feat for a left-handed thrower.
"I like to take those chances," Gonzalez said of making tough plays with his arm. "It makes the game more exciting. It makes the game a little more fun."
Gonzalez wasn't bad with the bat, either. He hit .279 with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs in 2008, ranking fifth in the league in home runs and third in RBIs. It's the second season he eclipsed the 30-home run, 100-RBIs mark.
Gonzalez, a first-time All-Star this season, prides himself on his defense as much as his offense. It was a Minor League instructor early in his career named Manny Crespo who instilled the importance of defense in Gonzalez's head.
"He always told me that you've got to play good first base because when you're in a slump, if you're a bad defensive first baseman, they'll take you out of the game right away," Gonzalez said. "I'm not helping the team by stealing bases, so I've got to do the little things well."
As for Maddux, who won a Gold Glove last season while with the Padres, he was traded to the Dodgers in August for two pitching prospects.
The 42-year-old still made a big impression on opposing coaches and managers, making three errors in 77 overall chances with four double plays, extending his all-time record for a pitcher to 98.
"I think, more than anything, he has great baseball instincts when it comes to fielding a ball," Black said previously about Maddux's defense. "When he throws a pitch, he knows where the ball is going to be hit. It's amazing to see the plays he makes, but it doesn't surprise me.
"He has shown -- even at his age -- great reflexes. I'm sure they're not like they were when he was 20, but it's not that far off."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.