Asdrubal wins GIBBY as best defensive player
Indians' shortstop honored for brilliant fielding in 2011 campaign
CLEVELAND -- The nightly baseball highlights shows were not complete this past season without a clip of a defensive gem from Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. At least that is the way it seemed, given his propensity for jaw-dropping displays.
Cabrera has a knack for making seemingly impossible plays look routine, using backhanded flips or throws from his knees to turn sure hits into amazing outs. The shortstop confessed this season that all those gems were more about preparation than improvisation.
"I'll play around a little bit in batting practice," Cabrera said during the regular season. "You never know when you can make that play."
For his effort and wizardry, Cabrera has earned a Greatness in Baseball Yearly Award as the game's best defensive player. Cabrera started for the American League in the All-Star Game, won a Silver Slugger Award for his strong offensive showing and has now been honored for his defense.
The GIBBY Award winners are calculated based on four segments of voters that each account for 25 percent of the total vote (millions of fans at MLB.com, media, front-office personnel and MLB alumni too part in the balloting).
The ultimate honors of baseball's awards season, 2011 GIBBY Awards were awarded to Major League Baseball's top player, starting pitcher, rookie, breakout player, comeback player, wow factor, closer, setup man, defensive player, manager and executive, as well as to the 2011 postseason MVP, with no restriction to league affiliation.
GIBBY trophies also honored the year's top play, moment, walk-off, performance, oddity, fan moment and postseason moment from MLB.com's "Must C" highlight vault.
Cabrera did not win an AL Gold Glove Award -- that accolade went to Erick Aybar of the Angels. One of the reasons might be that Cabrera has received plenty of criticism for his defense, considering there are defensive metrics that paint him as one of baseball's subpar shortstops.
Indians manager Manny Acta usually scoffed at such a claim, saying instead that it is easy to appreciate Cabrera's skills when watching him up close.
One of Cabrera's most remarkable plays came on May 19 against the White Sox.
With a runner on first base and no outs, Chicago's Omar Vizquel -- once a defensive master at shortstop for the Indians himself -- drilled a 92-mph sinker from Joe Smith that hung high in the strike zone. The pitcher made a desperate attempt to snare the baseball in flight, but instead had it skip off his glove.
Cabrera had moved to his left to corral the sharply-hit ball, but now it was sent swiftly to his right by Smith's effort. Cabrera stopped the baseball with his right hand and, in one motion, dropped to his knees, planted his glove hand on the ground to support himself, peered over his left shoulder to see if second baseman Adam Everett was on the bag.
Everett was there, so Cabrera relayed the baseball with a behind-the-back barehanded flip. Stunned, Everett caught the ball and stepped on the bag for an out before firing to first base for an unbelievable double play.
"That was pretty nifty," Acta said at the time. "He's very good. That's one of those things that doesn't show in all those gradings that usually don't think much of him. He's a very good shortstop. Terrific hands. Terrific instincts. We saw it there."
The Indians saw it again exactly one month later.
During a 5-2 win over the Pirates, Cabrera spun a gem with the score caught in a 2-2 deadlock in the 10th inning. Smith snapped off a 3-2 fastball with his signature sidearm delivery and the 90-mph heater met up with the bat of Pittsburgh's Brandon Wood. The swing created a low line drive to Cabrera's right and the baseball took an awkward hop in front of the Cabrera.
The baseball appeared destined for left field -- until Cabrera reached back and snared it with his right hand.
The shortstop pivoted, jumped and threw across his body. The result was a rocket of a throw in the direction of first baseman Carlos Santana, who did not even see Cabrera make the barehanded grab. As Wood sprinted up the line, Santana caught the ball in the nick of time.
"I wasn't surprised," Santana said at the time. "For me, that's just normal for him."
Players inside the Indians' dugout went nuts.
"Oh my God," Acta said after the game. "Half of the dugout was yelling, 'Best play ever!' Some guys were like, 'Slow down. We've seen some other ones. Ozzie Smith and all that.'"
Cabrera's teammates also joked with the shortstop about all the barehanded plays he was making.
"You know they don't give out gold hand awards," Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano quipped during the season. "They're called Gold Gloves."
Cabrera is still waiting to win one of those.
For now, the shortstop has a GIBBY on his resume.