"What makes it so meaningful is that it's voted on by the managers and coaches. You can't fool those guys. They know the game best, because they played. It's much respect when they give you their vote."Hunter claimed his ninth consecutive Gold Glove for fielding excellence on Tuesday, joining the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki and the Orioles' Adam Jones in the American League outfield. Only Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays (12 each) and Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones and Al Kaline (10 each) have won more for outfield play than Hunter and Ichiro, who also ran his streak to nine consecutive selections. Hunter's first seven Gold Gloves came while he was with the Twins before signing a five-year free-agent deal with the Angels after the 2007 season. Three more Gold Gloves in the final years of his Angels contract would tie Hunter with Mays and Clemente for the all-time lead, with Ichiro also having that opportunity. "When you talk about Mays and Clemente, those are legends," Hunter said. "That's the ultimate goal, to be up there with the best of the best. Those are the guys who set the standard on how to play the outfield." Jones, named for the first time, succeeded the Indians' Grady Sizemore, who had completed the AL outfield with Hunter and Ichiro the past two seasons.
Rounding out the AL Gold Glove nine are White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, Twins catcher Joe Mauer, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.Hunter, on his way to his best all-around season, was forced to miss 32 games, starting July 10, with a groin injury sustained crashing into outfield walls at Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park in San Francisco. "You can't really second-guess yourself for running into walls," Hunter said. "I'm always trying to do everything I can to help my team, save my pitchers runs. I played an extra month after I came back with a sore groin, but I gave it everything I had." Playing 115 games in center, Hunter made his first error in two seasons, enduring a stretch of 265 consecutive errorless games. His .997 fielding percentage tied Toronto's Vernon Wells for the highest among all center fielders. Hunter's 2.7 range factor, according to Fangraphs.com, was surpassed only among regular AL center fielders by Adam Jones (3.0) and Franklin Gutierrez of Seattle at 2.9. "There are so many things that go into playing defense at this level," Hunter said. "I really don't think numbers can tell the story. That's why I appreciate the respect of the managers, who really know what goes into being a good player, all the little things." Hunter's game-saving, wall-scaling catch robbing the Royals' Miguel Olivo of a home run on Mother's Day, May 10, at Angel Stadium was one of the highlights of the season for the three-time American League West champion Angels. Hunter was disappointed teammates Chone Figgins, at third base, and Erick Aybar, at shortstop, didn't win Gold Gloves. "I thought Figgy and Aybar both had a good chance," Hunter said. "Jeter and Longoria are good, too. Longoria's got the advantage of playing [home games] on artificial turf, where you can read all the hops, and Jeter is Jeter. He gets much respect for what he does offensively as well as defensively. "People just don't know enough about Aybar's game yet. He's just arbitration-eligible for the first time. He's going to get his Gold Gloves when people catch up to how good he is." Angels manager Mike Scioscia felt he had three Gold Glove defenders in Hunter, Aybar and Figgins. "He's the captain of the outfield," Scioscia said of Hunter. "Torii is as good as it gets out there, with his athletic ability combined with his knowledge and awareness. "I've never seen a left-side infield with the range of Figgy and Aybar. Both those guys had tremendous seasons and were worthy of Gold Gloves." Jeter was selected for the fourth time, while Teixeira's Gold Glove was his third. Polanco and Mauer were selected for the second time, while Longoria and Buehrle -- author of a perfect game against Longoria's Rays -- were first-time choices. In the statistical analysis by Fangraphs.com, only Longoria ranked higher in the AL than Figgins in UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which combines a wide range of data. Aybar also was second in UZR, trailing Rangers rookie Elvis Andrus. Kendry Morales, in his first full season for the Angels, replaced Teixeira and led all regular MLB first baseman in UZR. Morales' defense was one of the surprises of the season, making him a complete player along with his .306 batting average and team highs in homers (34) and RBIs (108).
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.