Gold Gloves—Part IV: MLB 2B in Puerto Rico Winter Ball (Dee Gordon)

Dee Gordon with Carolina

Seven MLB 2B who played in Puerto Rico have 21 Rawlings Gold Gloves (GG) between them: 16 American League (AL) and five National League (NL). This covers 1957-to-2018. In 1957, GG were awarded to nine total MLB players by position. From 1958-on, separate AL-NL recipients received this award. Nellie Fox—1957 Chicago White Sox—won the first GG at 2B. This is Part IV in a series on Gold Gloves (GG) earned by MLB players who played winter ball in the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League.

The most GG won by a 2B is 10 by Roberto Alomar, all in the AL with Toronto-Baltimore-Cleveland, followed by Ryne Sandberg (nine), Bill Mazeroski (eight), Frank White (eight), Joe Morgan and Bobby Richardson with five apiece. Charlie Neal was the first GG recipient who played professionally in Puerto Rico, for the Caguas Criollos. This part focuses on Dee Gordon, who began his pro baseball career as a shortstop, but transitioned to second base and the OF.

By the time Dee Gordon made his debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers, June 6, 2011, he had experienced success as the starting shortstop for the 2010-11 Carolina Giants in Puerto Rico. Gordon, who played in Puerto Rico from October 22 to December 14, 2010, was second in the league in batting average (BA) to Luis Figueroa of the Caguas Criollos, in the second closest batting race in Puerto Rico League history—Figueroa went 56 for 155, a .36129 BA; Gordon’s 52 hits/144 AB gave him a .36111 BA, for a difference of .00018. This batting chase was closer than the 1945-46 batting race between Monte Irvin of San Juan, who hit .3677 (57 for 155), versus the .3684 BA of Ponce’s Fernando Díaz Pedroso (35 for 95). But in 1967-68, Tony Taylor of San Juan hit .342—with the five decimals at .34184—to José Pagán’s .34167 for Caguas, a difference of .00017. Tony Taylor received an extra AB to give him the 217 required plate appearances. Without this extra AB, the Gordon-Figueroa batting race would have been the closest ever in league history. Perhaps one of the most historic BA chases in Puerto Rico history was 1939-40, when Guayama’s Perucho Cepeda (.383) edged Santurce’s Josh Gibson (.380).

Dee Gordon also finished second in SB in Puerto Rico, with eight. Ponce’s Danny Espinosa stole nine. Gordon tied Mayagüez’s Irving Falú for the league lead in runs with 26. Dee Gordon’s slash line with Carolina was .361/.396/.493/.889. His fielding PCT at SS was .923, with 13 errors, 94 assists and 62 putouts. This was one of the reasons the Dodgers moved Gordon to 2B.

The Dodgers sent Gordon to Licey in the Dominican Republic for the 2012-13 season, and also after his 2013 injury-plagued NL season, when he played in 38 MLB games, for a .234/.314/.298/.612 slash line. Gordon hit .269 for Licey in 2012-13, with nine SB in 29 games. Then, he hit .348 for the 2013-14 Licey Tigers in just 12 games (16 hits/46 AB), with four SB. Neal opted to play the final four games of the 2013-14 winter season with the Mayagüez Indios. With Mayagüez, he went eight for 17, a terrific .471 BA, December 27-30, 2013. Gordon’s career BA in Puerto Rico was .373, with 60 hits in 161 AB; four doubles, six triples, one homer and 15 RBIs, in 37 games, with eight SB. His Dominican League totals included a .292 BA, with 45 hits in 154 AB, four doubles, six triples, zero HR and 15 RBIs, plus 13 SB in 41 games.

Dee Gordon, in 2014, led the NL in triples (12) and SB—with 64—after his final winter in the Dominican Republic/Puerto Rico. Gordon hit .289 for the 2014 Dodgers with 92 runs scored. On December 10, 2014, the Dodgers dealt Gordon, a 2014 NL All-Star 2B, along with RHP Dan Haren, IF Miguel Rojas and a played to be named (or cash) to the Miami Marlins for LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Chris Hatcher, IF Enrique Hernández and catcher Austin Barnes.

Gordon’s 2015 season with Miami included a NL GG at 2B with six errors and a .992 fielding PCT; NL batting title (.333); most hits (205); his second All-Star selection; a Silver Slugger; and league-leading 58 SB. Two years later (2017), Gordon led the NL with 60 SB. He did receive an 80-game suspension in 2016. On December 7, 2017, the Marlins traded Gordon to the Seattle Mariners for three prospects: RHP Nick Neidert and Robert Dugger, plus IF Christopher Torres. The Mariners also received international bonus slots worth one million dollars.

I was reminded by Dee Gordon’s base-stealing ability Thursday night, April 18, 2019, when he stole second base versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, during a televised game by the MLB channel. This gave Gordon eight SB in 21 games, best in the AL, early in the 2019 season.

Dee Gordon deserves credit for improving his baseball skills in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, in an era where very few of the best Stateside baseball prospects play in the Caribbean. Gordon, a 1x Gold Glove winner, 1x NL batting champ, 3x NL SB leader, 2x NL All-Star and 1x Silver Slugger winner, turned 31 years old on April 22, 2019.

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