Imagine telling a Yankee fan who froze themselves in time on Opening Day that, after Anthony Volpe's rookie year at shortstop, the only thing he'd still have to work on was his offense?
All season long, in moments where he was stuck in offensive valleys, Volpe was left to contend with the idea that not only was he struggling at the plate, but he might be losing grip on the position of his childhood dreams with every whiff. After all, his hold on shortstop was tenuous at best; "Peraza's the shortstop, though" became a casual refrain for fans of all levels of experience. Even as Volpe held his own, compensating for his below-average arm strength with above-average instincts, a good portion of the fan base still spent the first half biding their time until they could teleport the rookie over to second base, replacing him with another unknown.
But the Yankees believed. At times, it felt like they believed a bit too much; one year after using their mysterious metrics to justify Isiah Kiner-Falefa's hold on the starting shortstop position, it seemed like they might be manifesting a Gold Glove Volpe season at short simply by saying it out loud enough.
And yet ... at the end of the year, Volpe nabbed the hardware. The real life Gold Glove. He became the first Yankees rookie to win the honor at any position, edging out fellow finalists Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. The September Swoon at the plate may have tarnished his rookie season, post-Parm, but this is something they can never take away from the kid, who just might be a shortstop after all.
Yankees Anthony Volpe wins Gold Glove at shortstop
The only "issue" now? You can't take the shortstop reins away from the reigning Gold Glover. But Oswald Peraza didn't do much to distinguish himself down the stretch, either. His position on the 2024 Yankees isn't assured. He could be the headliner of a trade package. He could be overrated. He could be an excellent second baseman.
All we do know is that Volpe, the local kid who grew up idolizing Derek Jeter, hit 20+ homers, stole 20+ bases, and earned the league's top honor for defense at a position he wasn't supposed to succeed at. He will be in pinstripes next season -- and if his offense still needs to be addressed, it will be.
The Gold Glove process is deeply flawed and quite political. There's no denying some non-nominated shortstops should've been in the conversation. But, of the trio of finalists, Volpe was most deserving, and the voting body came through with a narrative win. Volpe capturing this honor isn't a bad totem for a year spent acclimating himself to the rigors of a 162-game season, though. Sometimes heart -- and baseball know-how -- really can mask a lack of elite defensive skills. And when no one else believed, the Yankees did.
Volpe continues to have a long way to go before he's a perennial All-Star, a first-time All-Star, or a major-league mainstay. But you don't demote Gold Gloves midseason. And you don't get rewarded as the league's top shortstop by accident. As far as first steps go, this is a pretty gilded one.