Time was you could at least count on the Gold Glove Award to at least measure some degree of the common awareness of a player on the national scene. But Lorenzo Cain is not a finalist for the AL Gold Glove Award for centerfield. All this hysteria and dogmatic worship of everything Royal the past few weeks and months and they still managed to shortchange one of the most important members of the squad.
Surprisingly present, is Adam Eaton, who is universally acknowledged as speedy, athletic, capable of extending himself for highlight reel-quality plays, but settles more comfortably in a conversation that praises him for being solidly above-average, rather than best in the league. When someone is the best in the league, you kind of know it when you see it. They often look a lot like Lorenzo Cain, a rangy, all-enveloping dragon, because Lorenzo Cain is the best in the league.
Eaton is pretty good. He has plenty of recovery speed and basically no limitations in his willingness to dive, leap into walls, and crash into things, often to his own detriment. He can follow balls over his shoulder, but not to the point where he plays abnormally shallow to cut off bloopers. His jumps seem adequate and aided by good top speed. His throwing arm was praised coming over from Arizona, and while he is capable of strong throws from the outfield, he tends to need to get his full body behind it, leading to a fairly long load-up process.
Those are my amateurish observations, which might be as satisfying as the statistical noise, where UZR hates him (-13.3 for his career), but DRS loved his 2014 campaign (+12), Total Zone Rating approved of him (+3) and Inside Edge Fielding said he excelled at converting unlikely and 50-50 plays.
Everyone who watches Eaton thinks he can hack it, and since he's on this finalist list, perhaps I'm underselling their approval.
Which puts him in an unfortunate battle with fellow finalists Adam Jones and Jackie Bradley Jr. Jones has three Gold Gloves, and has captured the last two, and Bradley's glovework is so virtuosic that it propped up his subhuman bat for most of the year, at least by his own team's standards. Eaton probably has a range advantage on the 225-pound, 29-year-old Jones these days, but the only person who caused enough of a stir to unseat Jones would be Cain--and evidently he did not--or Bradley, but that might because Boston media had to look for something he was doing well.
Award wins are nice, but what the award says about Eaton's perception is more hysterical. Eaton had the 12th highest OBP in the American League, is apparently seen as a Gold Glove-caliber defender at a premium position, his only serious weakeness is that he can't put much beyond a strong slap into a ball, and that's mostly neutralized by his role on the offense. And the Sox traded the up-and-down Hector Santiago to have an up-and-down year for the Angels, who still come out looking like a team of relatively sound mind in the trade because they didn't swing it all together for the sake of Mark Trumbo.
Swift, immediate dismissal and condemnation of trades are frequent. To have them exist as slow motion car wrecks that keep getting worse, and to be on the right side of the, is a rare sardonic joy.