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Up-the-middle duo secure honors

Rollins, Rowand secure Gold Gloves

PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins usually laughs, then shrugs when the subject of winning a Gold Glove comes up.

The predictable reaction has nothing to do with the confident shortstop not believing such accolades are possible, even in a league with sterling defenders Omar Vizquel (an 11-time winner), Edgar Renteria (twice), Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzski and Khalil Greene. While Rollins covets the honor, he understands he has no control over those who decide.

The parties who do, managers and coaches from each National League team -- who can't vote for their own players -- have garnered Rollins and teammate Aaron Rowand with the ultimate praise for defense, awarding them with their first Rawlings Gold Gloves.

"Defense is a big part of my game and something I pride myself in," Rollins said in a statement. "For years, I've felt that my teammates and my peers have known that I'm a good defensive player and it's great to finally get recognized by the managers and coaches."

With up-the-middle defense crucial to winning a championship, Rollins and Rowand were key defensive components on a team that captured the NL East and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Rollins started all 162 games this season -- an amazing accomplishment for a guy listed at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds -- and Rowand played in all but one game.

The Mets, whose collapse worked in concert with the Phillies surge, also had two winners in third baseman David Wright and outfielder Carlos Beltran. A tie in the voting actually gave the NL four outfield winners, with Atlanta teammates Andruw Jones and Jeff Francoeur earning hardware.

Rollins' .985 fielding percentage was second among NL shortstops to Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki (.987), and he made 11 errors in a career-high 1,441 1/3 innings.

Rollins became the first player in Major League history to have at least 30 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season, and set a record for at-bats in a season with 716. He ended with 211 hits, a .296 batting average, 94 RBIs and led the NL in runs scored with 139.

2007 Gold Glove winners
 C Ivan Rodriguez, DET
1B Kevin Youkilis, BOS
2B Placido Polanco, DET
3B Adrian Beltre, SEA
SS Orlando Cabrera, LAA
OF Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
OF Torii Hunter, MIN
OF Grady Sizemore, CLE
P Johan Santana, MIN
C Russell Martin, LAD
1B Derrek Lee, CHC
2B Orlando Hudson, ARI
3B David Wright, NYM
SS Jimmy Rollins, PHI
OF Carlos Beltran, NYM
OF Andruw Jones, ATL
OF Jeff Francoeur, ATL
OF Aaron Rowand, PHI
P Greg Maddux, SD

Now he has a Gold Glove. Next could be the NL Most Valuable Player, which will be announced on Nov. 20.

"His value is hard to explain," manager Charlie Manuel said in September. "He's been that good for us. He plays every day and that takes a special player. He has all the credentials to be the MVP.

"The position he plays and the way he plays it is very important. Everything filters around him. He's the guy that sets our offense and he's the guy that sparks our defense."

Rowand started 155 games in center field, second-most in the NL behind only Juan Pierre's 160, while committing just two errors in 405 total chances. He's the third Phillies outfielder to win the award. Garry Maddox won eight (1975-82) and Bobby Abreu one (2005).

"I take a lot of pride in playing defense," Rowand said. "To be recognized by the managers and coaches -- the people that watch you every day -- is the greatest compliment I can get."

The 2007 season marked the 51st year of the Gold Glove Award. The first were awarded in 1957 to one player at each position from both leagues, then expanded the next year to include a lineup of nine players, one from each league.

The idea of awarding Gold Gloves to the game's top fielders hatched in 1956 when Elmer Blasco, the Rawlings Sporting Goods public relations/sales manager, discovered during a Spring Training survey that 83 percent of MLB regular players used Rawlings gloves or mitts.

He noted that Hillerich & Bradsby, the Major League's leading baseball bat supplier, awarded "Silver Bats" to the game's top hitters, so Blasco reasoned that Rawlings ought to sponsor some sort of fielding award.

After his idea was accepted by Rawlings' management, Blasco contacted the Brown Shoe Company of St. Louis and obtained a hide of gold lame-tanned leather used to make ladies formal slippers. A glove was crafted from the hide, laced and stamped as a regular fielder's glove, and attached to a metal fixture on a walnut base with an engraved plate. Thus was born the Gold Glove Award.

The Oct. 2, 1957, edition of The Sporting News featured a full-page announcement: "Recognizing the importance of superior individual fielding performance to the advancement of baseball as America's national game, Rawlings has established the annual Gold Glove Awards beginning with the '57 season."

A committee selected by The Sporting News voted from 1957-64; MLB managers and coaches took over the voting responsibility in 1965.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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