A Long History of Golden Redbirds


The St. Louis Cardinals have become well known for producing Cy Young winning pitchers and Silver Slugger winning hitters, but they are no strangers to Gold Glove Awards either. With last Wednesday’s announcement that Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina had won baseball’s highest defensive honor, it has become apparent that the Cards’ stellar defensive play ranks right up there with their dominant pitching and elite hitting.

There is no denying the defensive abilities of Pujols and Molina, but they are just two pieces of an ongoing Gold Glove trend in St. Louis. This trend began back in 1963 with center-fielder Curt Flood, who won a Gold Glove in seven consecutive seasons. Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith continued the trend, distinguishing the Cards from any other organization in baseball. Gibson won the award an incredible nine years in a row from 1965 to 1973, ranking behind only Greg Maddux for most among pitchers. Smith, the greatest defensive shortstop to ever play the game, won a Gold Glove for an unprecedented 13 years in a row from 1980 to 1992, 11 of which were with the Cardinals. Smith is tied with Greg Maddux for the most consecutive Gold Glove seasons in MLB history. The 35-year-old Scott Rolen, who won his eighth Gold Glove this year, won it four times with the Cards from 2003 to 2006. Finally, outfielder Jim Edmonds won the award six times with St. Louis from 2000 to 2005, and catcher Mike Matheny won it three times with the team in 2000, 2003 & 2004.

Gold Gloves have only been awarded for 54 years now (Since 1957), but that has proven to be more than enough time for the Cardinals to establish consistent defensive excellence. While the early Gold Glove history in St. Louis is unquestionably impressive, it’s the recent history that has perhaps been even more remarkable. Compiling 21 Gold Gloves in the past decade, the Redbirds are on another level than the rest of Major League Baseball.

For Yadier Molina, 2010 marks the third straight year in which his efforts behind the plate resulted in a Gold Glove Award. Just the third Cardinal catcher to win the award three times and the 19th catcher in MLB history to win it three times, Molina is arguably the best defensive player at his position right now. At just 28 years old, I wouldn’t bet against Yadi winning at least one or two more times. Molina caught 1,118 innings and racked up 79 assists this year (Both led NL). He also threw out an incredible 48% of would be base stealers this year. I think it’s safe to say that Yadi has the best arm as a catcher in the majors. He throws behind runners at first, he throws runners out who are attempting to steal second or third, and he blocks balls in the dirt with ease, but more importantly, he is the brains behind one of baseball’s best pitching staffs.

On the other hand, Albert Pujols was just as dominant defensively as Molina. Pujols finished with 157 assists, 1,458 putouts, 146 double plays, and a fielding percentage of .998. He also committed a career-low four errors. Pujols, who won a Gold Glove back in 2006 as well, is now the third St. Louis first baseman to win the award more than once. He continues to work hard every year to perfect his defense, and the game’s best hitter is truly an all-around player.

The Cards’ division rival Cincinnati also came away with a strong showing as far as Gold Gloves are concerned. Pitcher Bronson Arroyo, second baseman Brandon Phillips, and third baseman Scott Rolen all won the award as they contributed to the great defensive success of the Reds this year. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez both won Gold Gloves for the first time, making the Rockies the third National League team with multiple winners. Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino were the other N.L. winners, showing great range in the outfield all year long.

Even after a disappointing season, it’s nice to see two Cardinals get rewarded for their individual performances this year. Pujols and Molina will never think of themselves before the team, but I’m sure it has to be gratifying to be rewarded for their efforts in the field.