Name the best shortstop to ever wear a Rockies uniform. The names are deep, but the talent is shallow. Anyone who watches baseball and has paid any attention to the Colorado Rockies knows that their is no argument for who has been the best at the shortstop position in the 17 years of Rockies baseball. Troy Tulowitzki.
With all due respect to Walt Weiss, Tulowitzki has redefined what playing the position means. His range helps him field more balls than any other shortstop in the game, yet despite having more chances, he also had just nine errors. So how will history look back on the first 17 years of Rockies baseball? The only Gold Glove shortstop to don purple pinstripes...none other than Neifi Perez.
Gold Gloves are widely regarded as meaningless around baseball. In fact, Rafael Palmeiro once won the award at first base after being the Rangers designated hitter, playing less than 50 games at the position. Unlike MVP awards and Rookie of the Year awards, Gold Gloves are voted on by the managers and coaches. Despite getting rave reviews from opposing managers, Tulowitzki failed to make the cut, losing out for the second time in three years to Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins.
The problem is not that Tulowitzki is disrespected around the league. It is not that his skills are under appreciated. Anyone in baseball knows that defense at shortstop does not get any better than Tulo's. So if he doesn't win the award, who cares? Everyone knows he is great.
The problem is that despite Tulowitzki being highly regarded around the league as a phenomenal shortstop, time kills all memories. When history looks back on the 25 year old it will not sing praises about his defense. He will be just another also-ran. No big deal for a player who has no dreams of being enshrined in Cooperstown, or even landing a large free agent contract. But to a player of Tulowitzki's ilk, not winning the Gold Glove has severe ramifications.
Baseball continually fights the famous "east coast bias." Teams from small markets like Kansas City, St. Louis and Colorado feel that half of the shows that highlight baseball games are devoted to the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox. Good players suddenly become great players when they put on Yankee pinstripes. For evidence, look no further than Johnny Damon. Make no mistake, Damon is a very good hitter. However, the rest of his game is very lacking. There are little league baseball players who have a better shot at throwing a runner out at the plate than Damon.
Suddenly, however, Damon is signed by the Yankees for $10 million per year and he is talked about as a great player.
Baseball players are very smart, and their agents are even smarter. When an agent has a player of Tulowitzki or Matt Holliday's calibur they know that they will not only be able to recieve larger inital contracts from larger market teams, but they will also be able to get a higher contract the next time around due to the fact that the player is more likely to win awards like the Gold Glove, which is a great term to throw around during contract negotiations.
If Todd Helton would never have signed his long-term deal before the 2000 season, there is no telling how many Gold Gloves the lefty would have on his mantle. Despite statistics showing that number 17 has scooped more balls than any first baseman in baseball, all the while only committing three errors, Helton is five years removed from a Gold Glove.
Parity is a word that baseball is far removed from. Many people scream for a salary cap or for revenue sharing. However, the answer may be more simple than that. Baseball needs to quit worshipping the teams that play out east and acknowledge that there is some pretty good baseball being played west of the Mississippi River. When that happens players may actually want to stay in towns like Kansas City or Denver rather than seeking acknowledgement for their play and heading to a team that gets recognition.