This could be the year. Billy Hamilton, for all the jaw-dropping plays he has made in center field these last five years, has not won a Gold Glove. The Taylorsville native and Cincinnati center fielder is among the finalists this year, as are Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson and former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland. The nine winners from each of the two leagues will be announced on Nov. 4. The dash-fast Hamilton made 348 putouts this season – suffice it to say that’s a lot – registered 12 assists and committed just two errors. Dickerson, who played left field for Pittsburgh, also had an excellent year with the glove, making just one error with seven assists. Moreland, Boston’s first baseman, won a Gold Glove with Texas in 2016; he made two errors this year while handling 809 chances. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier took gold at second base with Minnesota in 2017 but did not make the list of finalists this year. Greenville natives Frank White and George Scott own the most Gold Gloves among Mississippians with eight apiece. White racked up his at second base with Kansas City back in the 1970s and ’80s. Scott earned his as a first baseman with Boston and Milwaukee in the ’60s and ’70s.
Another day, another amazing catch by Cincinnati center fielder Billy Hamilton. The former Taylorsville High star made a long run and a leaping catch just in front of the wall to rob an Arizona batter of an extra-base hit on Saturday. Not close to his best — but amazing just the same. It’s equally amazing that Hamilton has never won a Gold Glove. Perhaps this, his fifth full season in the majors, will be the year. Gold Glove selections can be a little confusing. (Rafael Palmeiro won one in a year when he rarely played in the field.) Jackson native Chet Lemon was one of the best center fielders of his era. In four different seasons he made more than 400 putouts, including an American League record 512 in 1977. And yet, he couldn’t snag a Gold Glove. Fulton’s Brian Dozier does have a Gold Glove, just one, which he won last year with Minnesota. Dozier, a second baseman known for his power, is an underrated defensive player, a point that was underscored by a play he made on Saturday for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He dove to his right to spear a hard-hit grounder and, while flat on the dirt, flipped the ball with his glove hand to second base to start a double play. Amazing. Dozier was primarily a second baseman at Southern Miss, but Minnesota drafted him as a shortstop and played him there all through the minors. He got a brief trial at that position in his rookie MLB season of 2012 but was converted back to second base that off-season. Smart move. Dozier may have more Gold Gloves in his future, though he has a ways to go to match Frank White, the Greenville native who won eight during his star-studded career as the Kansas City Royals’ second baseman. Monstrous home runs and 100-mph pitches get so much attention these days, but defense still matters. A first baseman who makes all the plays, like Amory’s Mitch Moreland (Gold Glove, 2016), is vital to winning games. Moreland’s defense is one of the main reasons he wrested the first-base job from Hanley Ramirez in Boston this season. Great plays, like the ones Hamilton and Dozier made on Saturday, can energize a team. Can you imagine an outfield of ex-Magnolia State prep stars Hamilton, JaCoby Jones and Jarrod Dyson? Would any fly ball ever hit the ground? Hunter Renfroe can’t cover ground like those three, but the Crystal Springs native has one of the best outfield arms in the game. He has made throws from right field that bring to mind Dave Parker, the Grenada native with the legendary cannon who won three Gold Gloves in his prime. His throw in the 1979 All-Star Game — look it up — is still talked about. So cheer if you must for bombs and punchouts but don’t forget to give some love to glove.
Kudos to Mitch Moreland for winning the first Gold Glove of his career. The ex-Mississippi State star, now a free agent, led American League first basemen in fielding percentage (.998) playing for Texas in 2016. He committed just two errors in 1,103 chances. (And it didn’t hurt that he hit 22 home runs.) … Former Harrison Central High standout Bobby Bradley is rated the No. 5 prospect (again) and best power hitter in Cleveland’s system in Baseball America’s new rankings. Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman, was the Class A Carolina League MVP this past season, when he belted 29 homers and drove in 102 runs. He hit just .235 but had a .344 on-base percentage. … Picayune High product T.J. House, Itawamba Community College alum Tim Dillard and former Southern Miss star Scott Copeland are on the list of minor league free agents published by Baseball America. A host of former Mississippi Braves are also on the market, including Matt Lipka, Daniel Castro, Brandon Cunniff, Willians Astudillo, Madison Younginer, Joey Terdoslavich, Brandon Hicks, Jordan Schafer and David Hale. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones had another big hit on Tuesday for Salt River, boosting his Arizona Fall League average to .333 and RBI total to 11 in 16 games. Ex-Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull, another Detroit prospect with Salt River, worked strong four innings in that game, allowing one unearned run and fanning five. His ERA in five AFL starts is now 4.50.
Don’t be shocked if Cleveland’s pitching staff figures out a way to tame the Chicago Cubs three more times to claim the World Series title. After all, they’ve got Mickey Callaway, the former Ole Miss star, pulling levers and flipping switches – almost always the right ones — as their pitching coach. Over his four years in that role, the Indians have the best ERA (3.72) in the American League. While Cubs-mania has been sweeping the country this postseason, don’t forget that Indians pitchers already have taken down the heavy hitters trotted out by Boston and Toronto. Callaway, who is being touted as a future manager, rates a chunk of the credit. “Callaway has been a difference-maker, a confident communicator whose understanding of how to strategize and harmonize has routinely allowed the Indians to make the most of whatever arms are on hand,” Anthony Castrovince wrote for mlb.com. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton and McComb’s Jarrod Dyson are up for “Best Play, Defense” in the annual Esurance MLB Awards. Hamilton, with Cincinnati, made a jaw-dropping diving snag on Aug. 23, and Dyson, of Kansas City, produced an equally amazing home run-robbing catch two days later. You can vote on this and other yearly awards on mlb.com through Nov. 11. … Hamilton and Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland (Texas) are among the finalists for Gold Gloves in their respective leagues, as are former Mississippi Braves Jason Heyward (Cubs) and Andrelton Simmons (Los Angeles Angels).
Marcus Thames has been named assistant hitting coach for the New York Yankees after serving the past three seasons as a hitting coach in their minor league system. The Louisville native and ex-East Central Community College standout, who famously homered off Randy Johnson in his first big league at-bat, retired as a player in 2011. … Mississippi State product Ed Easley has been taken off the 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Memphis by the St. Louis Cardinals. Easley played in four games for the Cardinals as a 29-year-old rookie in 2015, going 0-for-6 with an RBI. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC alum Tony Sipp is a free agent and could be in line for a nice payday. The lefty reliever made $2.4 million with Houston in 2015, when he posted a 1.99 ERA and pitched well in the postseason. … Also on the list of MLB free agents are former Mississippi Braves Jason Heyward, Jeff Francoeur, Blaine Boyer and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton had a tough year at the plate (.226) for Cincinnati, but he is a Gold Glove finalist as a center fielder. Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier of Minnesota is a finalist at second base. The award winners will be announced Nov. 10. … Desmond Jennings, the former Itawamba CC standout, could be potential trade bait for Tampa Bay, reports say. Jennings was injured most of 2015, and the Rays now have other options in the outfield. … Curious to see what’s next for Corey Wimberly, the ex-Alcorn State star who batted .340 with 34 stolen bases in the Mexican League in 2015. Wimberly, 32, has been in pro ball since 2005 without tasting the majors.