The Cub first baseman Derrek Lee received the third Rawlings Gold Glove of his career in voting announced by Major League Baseball on Tuesday. As Rob G. recounted here at The Cub Reporter, Lee's award came despite the fact that he finished well behind several other NL first basemen, according to various measurements of defensive proficiency.
But that's often the way with the Gold Glove awards. Originally the brainchild of a Rawlings public relations/sales exec named Elmer Blasco, the Gold Gloves were first handed out in 1957. A committee selected by The Sporting News chose the winners, one at each position in each league, until 1964. At that point, the vote was turned over to MLB managers and coaches, who cast ballots within their respective leagues but may not choose any of their own players.
Human nature and manager & coach nature being what they are, the choices often appear to result from player reputation and voters' habits more than actual observation or reflection. As Baseball Library points out:
Perhaps the most egregious example (of irresponsible voting) was the Gold Glove awarded in 1999 to the Rangers' Rafael Palmeiro, who had played just 28 games at first base and had just been named the league's outstanding DH.
On the other hand (no pun intended), Derrek Lee has certainly distinguished himself as a glove man during his National League career--successfully fielding about 30% more balls than the average NL first baseman in the last ten years--and unlike the aforementioned Palmeiro, Lee is an indisputably good guy.
So, congratulations, D-Lee. Cub fans are happy to have you at first base. And we're very glad you're not Rafael Palmeiro.