Is there a three-peat in Matt Olson’s future?
That possibility exists after Thursday’s announcement that Olson, the Oakland A’s two-time defending American League Rawlings Gold Glove winner at first base, is a finalist for the award again this year, matching up with Houston’s Yuli Gurriel and Seattle’s Evan White.
Joining him as a finalist is Oakland center fielder Ramón Laureano, who is a finalist for the first time, along with the Twins’ Byron Buxton and the White Sox’s Luis Robert.
There will be no Gold Glove three-peat for A’s third baseman Matt Chapman, who was left off the finalists’ board this time around after winning the Gold Glove and the Platinum Glove in both 2018 and 2019. The 2020 season saw him miss the second half of the season. He didn’t play after a Sept. 6 injury led to right hip surgery.
“I felt like I was going out there and doing the same thing,” Olson said in a video conference call. “I take a lot of pride in the defense; I think you guys know that by now. This is the standard, and I want to be in the conversation with this every year.”
Laureano has been a strong-armed threat since making it to the big leagues, but he began to play a deeper center field this season, and the result was a well-rounded defensive game that drew notice around the league.
“This was such a better year than the year before,” Laureano said. He was injured and missed all of August in 2019 and wound up being moved to right field after he returned a week into September. “Just getting nominated is pretty humbling and a pretty cool experience.
“The process was better, working out with Ryno (coach Ryan Christianson) and the other coaches on the routes and analytics.”
Laureano said he spent lots of time looking at the best outfielders in the game, trying to pick up tips and habits.
”I’m looking up to the other outfielders like (Boston’s) Jackie Bradley and (Tampa Bay’s Kevin) Kiermaier, the best defensive center fielders in the game,” Laureano said. “I’m looking at how they go about it.”
The 2019 injuries slowed Laureano, but 2020 saw his legs back at full strength, and he noticed the difference right away. So, apparently, did everyone else.
“I was getting my legs under me better,” he said. “And I tried to play a little deeper. That was the only thing that I have to do. I was working on my throwing, but this year I saw that they weren’t running at all. They were literally just giving up from the first step on going from first to third. They’d just stay at second base. I saw that a lot this year on ground balls that I thought they were going to third on for sure.”
Runners trying to get to third base against the A’s had to fear more than Laureano. Several times this year, Olson broke out something new, fielding a grounder and then throwing to third base for an out. He and Chapman had figured the basics of the play in workouts, but he said it was special to put it into play.
“I knew I could do it, but I’d never really done the three-five (first base to third base) in a game like I did this year,” Olson said. “I’ll tell you what; I think that’s a good play and something that Chappy and I and Lamb (new third baseman Jake Lamb) and I talked about at the end of the year.
“When a guy is going from second to third and not really anticipating anything, that’s an out that we can get.”
The omission of Chapman from the list surprised both Olson and Laureano.
“That is pretty weird," Olson said. "I think we all know that if he played a full year, even if not the winner, then a finalist. I couldn’t see honestly anybody doing better than him. That’s not a knock on other people, it’s a tip of the cap to him.”
For Laureano, he seemed genuinely shocked to learn that Chapman was being bypassed.
“I think everybody should be shocked,” Laureano said. “But I don’t know how they nominate people. I’m disappointed, to be honest with you. I’ve seen players playing 60 percent of the season and still won a Gold Glove. I don’t know why in 60 games they don’t nominate the best defensive player in the entire universe.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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