Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche wins first Gold Glove award

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After a career-best offensive season for the Washington Nationals in 2012, first baseman Adam LaRoche was awarded the first Rawlings Gold Glove of his career Tuesday night, recognizing his superb defense for the National League East champions. 

LaRoche, known throughout his career as a sure-handed first baseman, had never received the annual award. He becomes just the second Nationals player ever to be honored with one — and the first since third baseman Ryan Zimmerman brought home the organization’s first in 2009. Senators catcher Earl Battey earned the first of his three career Gold Gloves in 1960, his lone season in Washington.

LaRoche beat out Cincinnati first baseman and former MVP Joey Votto, as well as Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman for the award.

Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond was a finalist for the honor as well, but Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins was awarded his fourth Gold Glove at the position. Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart and Miami’s Jose Reyes were also finalists at shortstop but fell short to Rollins. 

Rawlings established the Gold Glove Award in 1957 as the “greatest measure of fielding excellence,” the glove maker said in a press release. The award is presented annually to one player for each position in the American and National Leagues. Winners are selected by managers and coaches in that league before the end of the regular season. 

For LaRoche, 32, the defensive award acknowledges a season in which he made just seven errors and had a 6.1 Ultimate Zone Rating — the fifth best mark for the defensive statistic among major league first basemen and second only to Votto in the NL. Votto played 354 1/3 innings less than LaRoche this season due to injury. LaRoche led all NL first basemen in fielding percentage (.995), games started (149) and innings (1323 1/3).

It’s also another line on the resume for the first baseman as he continues to attempt to hammer out a contract extension with the Nationals with free agency beckoning.

LaRoche and the Nationals hold a mutual $10 million option for 2013 on his current contract but it appears likely that it will not be exercised by LaRoche as he hopes for a multi-year contract with the Nationals. He could test free agency if the sides do not agree to terms before Saturday’s deadline when their exclusive window expires, but he could also continue to negotiate on a new deal with the Nationals after that date.

“I’d love to [stay in Washington],” LaRoche said at the end of the season. “I think [general manager Mike Rizzo] would like me to come back and I’ve made it clear all year that this is where I want to play. On the other hand, I’ve got to do what’s right for my family, too.

“If it works out, I’m all in. I love these guys. I love being here. One more season for all these young guys, playing in big games like this is going to make them so much better next year.”

LaRoche added a possible Silver Slugger season to his Gold Glove defense, hitting .271 with a career high 33 home runs and 100 RBI, hitting primarily out of the cleanup spot. He’s also a clubhouse leader and one of the team’s most well-liked players. 

“He’s the catalyst in here,” Desmond said during the playoffs. “[Jayson Werth] does a lot, [Ryan Zimmerman] does a lot, all the other guys, but Rochey’s that steady head. He’s really, really, really respected in here.”

“Rochey, he’s such a good guy and such a big part of the team,” Werth said in September. “When he does get hits and does do well you’re even more happy for him because you want to see a guy like that succeed.”

LaRoche joins Chicago’s Darwin Barney, San Diego’s Chase Headley, Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen and Atlanta’s Jason Heyward as first-time winners in the National League. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina, Colorado left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and Miami pitcher Mark Buehrle rounded out the NL winners. 

Here is the full list of winners from both leagues: 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

        Pos               Player                                        2012 Team                                                

        P                   Jeremy Hellickson                 Tampa Bay Rays

                             Jake Peavy                           Chicago White Sox

        C                   Matt Wieters                          Baltimore Orioles

        1B                 Mark Teixeira                         New York Yankees

        2B                 Robinson Cano                       New York Yankees

        3B                 Adrian Beltre                          Texas Rangers

        SS                 J.J. Hardy                              Baltimore Orioles

        LF                  Alex Gordon                           Kansas City Royals

        CF                 Adam Jones                            Baltimore Orioles

        RF                 Josh Reddick                           Oakland Athletics

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

        Pos               Player                                        2012 Team                                              

        P                   Mark Buehrle                         Miami Marlins

        C                   Yadier Molina                         St. Louis Cardinals

        1B                 Adam LaRoche                       Washington Nationals

        2B                 Darwin Barney                        Chicago Cubs

        3B                 Chase Headley                       San Diego Padres

        SS                 Jimmy Rollins                         Philadelphia Phillies

        LF                  Carlos Gonzalez                     Colorado Rockies

        CF                 Andrew McCutchen                 Pittsburgh Pirates

        RF                 Jason Heyward                       Atlanta Braves

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About the Author
Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.

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