The (Gold) Gloves are off

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Tonight is Game 3 of head-to-head competition between two contenders for the American League Gold Glove for second basemen.

In this corner, sporting road greys, a black hat, with a bird logo, is Brian Roberts of the Baltimore Orioles.

In other corner, in a black top, white trunks and a black cap, with a bird logo, is Orlando Hudson of the Blue Jays.

Baseball America rated the best defensive players at the all-star break and predicted Roberts as the eventual winner.

So, who will earn the award at the end of the season?

Hitting leadoff is scout Dave Jauss of the Boston Red Sox, wearing his World Series ring from 2004.

"There are only three candidates," Jauss says, naming Adam Kennedy, of the Los Angeles Angels, Mark Ellis of the Oakland A's and Hudson.

"Kennedy had a shoulder injury early, but as long as he plays enough, he should be the guy. He's the most consistent, he makes every play."

A VOTE FOR KENNEDY

Jauss is not anti-Hudson, saying, "I'd rather have Hudson as a young player and he makes more plays than Kennedy. Off this year alone, Kennedy is the guy.

"Kennedy gets help from his shortstop, Orlando Cabrera, the best in our league, while Hudson doesn't. Russ Adams is below average."

Kennedy leads 1-0 in our unscientific poll.

"I have seen Hudson the most and I like the way he plays on the carpet," said scout Jim Ridley of the Minnesota Twins, who added that second might not be Hudson's natural position. "A little birdie tells me he might be better at third."

Kennedy and Hudson are now deadlocked in a 1-1 tie.

"I don't see a lot of AL games, but I like Kennedy the best," said former Philadelphia Phillies general manager Lee Thomas, who works for the Milwaukee Brewers.

With this precinct reporting, Kennedy takes the lead, so let's head up to the 400 level, where the handsome TV types are.

"I haven't seen every second baseman, but I find it hard to believe that anyone's better than Hudson," Jays broadcaster Rance Mulliniks said. "He leads in put outs, assists, chances and fielding percentage. That shows you, not only is he sure-handed, but he gets to more balls."

Hudson had 285 put outs going into last night's game against the Orioles, 66 more than Alfonso Soriano of the Texas Rangers. Hudson has 376 assists, seven more than Roberts.

Hudson had 667 total chances, 71 more than Soriano. Hudson's fielding percentage is .991, which among regular second baseman is the best, .002 ahead of Kennedy.

Now, Hudson and Kennedy are dead even at 2-2. We go one booth down for the deciding vote.

"Roberts and Hudson are close," Orioles broadcaster and former Jays manager Buck Martinez said. "Orlando is one of the premier second baseman in the game. Garth Iorg did a great job with him in the minors. Orlando reminds me of Frank White the way he plays the game."

So, his pick is?

"Defensively it's a dead heat between Roberts and Hudson, but Roberts is a step ahead. As often as the people who vote for the Gold Glove say offence does not matter, it enters the voting."

Roberts is hitting .312 with 18 homers and 60 RBIs while Hudson owns a .274 average with 10 homers and 60 RBIs.

In 1999, because of a bad knee, Rafael Palmeiro played only 28 games at first for the Rangers. Doug Mientkiewicz or Tino Martinez should have won. Mientkiewicz was the best defensive first baseman, but played only 110 games.

Martinez played 158 games and had seven errors and a league-high 106 assists. Palmeiro hit 47 homers, drove in 148 runs and won the Gold Glove.

AL managers will do the voting during the final two weeks of the season and the winners will be crowed in November. Until then ... argue away.


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