By David O’Brien
Andrelton Simmons continues to make spectacular plays that remind everyone why the Braves infielder is widely regarded as not only the best defensive shortstop in the National League, but arguably the best defender at any position in the majors.
In a recent game, he laid out to make a diving stop going to his left on the first play, but topped that with a sensational bare-handed grab-and-throw later in the game. The bouncing ball took a peculiar hop and was spinning away from him when he snatched it out of the air and threw to first base in one continuous motion for the out.
It was a play that was absolutely Ozzie Smith-esque, and reminded a lot of folks of the famous play when the great Cardinals shortstop dove for a ball to his left and reached back in mid-air to grab it with his bare hand when the ball took a bad hop and went to his right. That’s the play that Simmons cites of all the ones he’s watched by Smith on videotape.
Simmons won his first Gold Glove last year in his first full season in the majors, and also took home the Rawlings Platinum Glove as the best NL defender regardless of position.
He’s made more errors than expected this season, but Simmons lately has been coming up with the spectacular sort of plays that he made so frequently last year. Meanwhile, he’s also begun to show some progress at the plate.
Still, what the Braves want and get most from Simmons is off-the-charts defense. He changes games with his glove and strong arm, and his extraordinary defensive skills were the prime reason the Braves signed him to a seven-year, $58 million contract at the beginning of spring training.
Soon after Simmons signed that contract, a distinguished Dutch filmmaker, Mark Smeets, came to Braves spring training in Florida to do a segment on Simmons for a documentary that Smeets was doing on the growing influence of baseball players from the Dutch Antilles, the group of islands that includes Curacao, the home of Simmons and Andruw Jones, the former Braves center fielder who won 10 Gold Gloves.
“Now he’s big,” Smeets said of Simmons, whose awards last season and big contract this spring made him a household name in Curacao. “Since they signed him for, seven years? Fifty-some million? That’s a lot of money. For that island? You can buy the whole island.”
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