Following in Rynos footsteps, Barney wins Gold Glove

Following in Rynos footsteps, Barney wins Gold Glove
October 31, 2012, 2:19 am
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Darwin Barney has entertained teammates by doing backflips like Ozzie Smith, a trick he learned as a kid in gymnastics.

Barney was smart enough to start out on a pre-dental track at Oregon State University before he realized he should major in baseball and helped the Beavers win back-to-back College World Series titles.

Barney had pretty much played shortstop his entire life until he saw Starlin Castro make the leap over him in May 2010, directly from Double-A Tennessee to The Show.

So Barney went to work at second base at Triple-A Iowa with Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, the last Cub to win a Gold Glove at that position (nine straight between 1983 and 1991). Barney may not be at the beginning of that kind of run, but he has forced his way into the potential team picture for 2015, or whenever the Cubs are good again.

Winning a Gold Glove on Tuesday only reinforced the belief that Barney should be a core player in Theo Epsteins future plans.

Ryno meant a lot when Starlin got called up, Barney said. Ryno was really one of the guys that kept me confident in my ability and the fact that theres a spot for me in the big leagues some day.

Barneys mix of athleticism, intelligence and intangibles proved to be a good match for Dale Sveums program. The managers stronger emphasis on breaking down video and analyzing spray charts helped put Barney in position to win this award.

By going 141 consecutive games at second base without an error, Barney tied the major-league, single-season record held by Placido Polanco. Barney probably needed a big number like that to grab the attention of National League managers and coaches.

Brandon Phillips thinks hes the best defensive second baseman in the game just ask him and had won the past two Gold Gloves, and three within the previous four seasons.

Barney beat out finalists Phillips (Cincinnati Reds) and Aaron Hill (Arizona Diamondbacks). The Fielding Bible had already recognized Barney for saving 28 runs the most by a major-league second baseman by a wide margin which shows you can be a game-changer defensively.

Barney isnt one to beat his chest. He downplayed the Phillips question, showing the diplomatic skills that should make him a clubhouse leader in the years to come.

You dont expect to pass a guy like Brandon Phillips, Barney said. Hes exceptional at what he does. I cant sit here and say that Im better than him or anything like that. I dont think it has anything to do with that. I had a good season, and I think either one of us could have won it.

Barney led all second basemen in the majors with a .997 fielding percentage, committing only two errors in 731 total chances covering 1,270.1 innings. His 3.6 defensive win above replacement rating led all players in the National League.

I felt like the transition would happen eventually, (but) I didnt think it would be as smooth as it was, Barney said. You always hope that its not the last (Gold Glove, that its) the first of some or many. But for me, Im just going to enjoy this, because you never know if it will happen again.

At the end of the season, while the Philadelphia Phillies promoted Sandberg to their coaching staff for 2013, the Cubs didnt renew Pat Listachs contract. The third-base coach had been responsible for studying video, going over scouting reports and positioning infielders before each pitch, but Sveum had his own ideas.

I wouldnt say bittersweet, Barney said. Theres a place for Pat at the big-league level somewhere, and its going to happen real soon. Im not worried about him at all.

Generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Barney knew that a job wouldnt be handed to him. He understood that he would have to fight for it. With Castro at his side, Barney thinks the Cubs could one day have the best middle infield around.

Its been a long path, Barney said. (But) you cant be satisfied. Winning a Gold Glove doesnt necessarily satisfy me for the future, (but it) makes me hungry to try and get another one some day.