The postseason is in full swing for Major League Baseball, which means we get to watch the best teams full of the best players take the field against other great teams with great players. Players with such a pedigree are usually recognized for such with awards, with one of them being the Gold Glove awarded to players at every position for their defensive prowess.
In 2022, the New York Yankees had plenty of players make the final voting for the awards at their respective positions. Jameson Taillon, Jose Trevino, Anthony Rizzo, Andrew Benintendi, and DJ LeMahieu are all finalists at their respective positions (LeMahieu as a utility player). The significant omission from this list is Josh Donaldson, who, despite having a tough year at the plate, carved his name into the top of defensive leaderboards as the season progressed. Even Aaron Boone was shocked to see that he didn't make it.
Aaron Boone said that Aaron Judge splitting time in CF & RF hurt his chances for winning a Gold Glove.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) October 20, 2022
He said “a case can be made” that Isiah Kiner-Falefa should be a Gold Glove finalist, and said “to me, it’s a joke” that Josh Donaldson isn’t listed.
While many will question the statement's validity regarding Isiah Kiner-Falefa, there is hardly anything to dispute Donaldson's case as one of the best over the regular season. One can easily quibble with his work at the plate, but on defense, he’s been sensational.
Let's look at some of his most impressive clips of the season. The first is a great diving stop against Marcus Semien and the Texas Rangers:
Here's another from the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Guardians:
Finally, here's a great pick against the Kansas City Royals to hold the runner at second and get the second out of the inning.
Not only does the film back up that he was one of the best this season, but the statistics do too. In terms of Outs Above Average from Statcast, he ranked at the top of the American League with +7, and in terms of FanGraphs defensive runs saved, he was +8, behind only Baltimore’s Ramón Urías. There’s a legitimate case that no one was better than him at the position, and yet he wasn't voted among the top three. Below is the MLB's reasoning for the decision:
Here is the explanation from MLB and Rawlings on how Gold Glove finalists are determined: https://t.co/qGtAMk0Oxy pic.twitter.com/B1TiuZGPCQ— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) October 20, 2022
The decision-making here is confusing, primarily because there are players who are worse by both the eye test and the analytics that were Gold Glove finalists. The Yankees' own first baseman Rizzo's metrics are not good (though those can be finicky for the position), but he cut to compete against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Luis Arraez. However, it is mind-boggling that no other metrics are considered, and other managers did not watch enough of him making diving stops and hard throws across the diamond to decide if he should get the award.
The Gold Glove has appeared to lose meaning to many MLB fans over the years. With curious choices at every position seemingly every year, its reputation isn't the same (partially because the baseball public has become better at evaluating defense). However, any time a player can be recognized for excellent performance at the plate or in the field, they deserve to be, and Donaldson deserves to be for his impressive season. Like Boone said in his quote, Aaron Judge could also have a case because of the time he split between right and center field. However, he also wasn't voted in.
There aren't many valid reasons for Donaldson not being among the finalists, but unfortunately, he's not there. The value he provided at the position for the Yankees was imperative to the team's success this season, and despite not being recognized by the voters, plenty of people know that he should be there.