Despite the struggles of the Arizona Diamondbacks this season, there have been certain players that have well outperformed what anyone would have expected out of them. One of those players is Aaron Hill, the steady and reliable second baseman for the D-Backs.
Hill has arguably been the most consistent player on the team this year -- both offensively and defensively. Many feel that he is making a strong bid for a Gold Glove at second base due to his defensive prowess.
Surrounded by new players that are being called up from the minor leagues all the time and playing on a team that has underachieved, Hill continues to stay consistent in a very inconsistent environment.
First, there was the coup of a trade Kevin Towers pulled off in 2011. Aaron Hill was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Kelly Johnson, a struggling lefty that simply needed a new home. When Hill came over, he was also joined by John McDonald, a crafty veteran shortstop that has seen plenty of time on the field with Willie Bloomquist's back injuries.
The Diamondbacks declined Hill's option for 2012, but were still able to re-sign him to a two-year, $11 million deal. He has gone far and beyond what he is being paid. His numbers are very comparable to that of Brandon Phillips, the second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds. He was recently awarded with a six-year, $72.5 million contract.
The difference between Phillips and Hill is the recognition they receive. Phillips' name is constantly linked with Gold Glove awards, a strong player for the Reds and one of the best second basemen in the league. Hill, much like his entire team, is often gone unnoticed.
But that doesn't seem to bother him. He knows how well he has done and so does his manager, Kirk Gibson. "I am aware of the numbers. I watch him play everyday... He's very steady and consistent," Gibson said of Hill. "His work ethic never changes at all. He always takes his ground balls, he turns double plays. He's kind of found his old hitting form, he's simplified his swing, he's found a real comfortable hole for us at the two spot."
Gibson went on to comment about Hill's power, smarts for the game, base running ability and willingness to do as he is asked. He wants to play everyday and get better. That is just the type of player Gibson admires most because that is how Gibby played back in the day.
Hill knows he is playing well, too, but he's not the type of guy to admit it. Humility comes before personal gratification. Hill just goes out on the field, does his job and does it well. Whatever comes as a result of that is all icing on the cake.
"All those individual accolades, they're great, but winning makes those a lot more fun," Hill said when asked about the possibility of winning a Gold Glove. "You can't control any of that stuff. All you do is prepare for each game and at the end of the year, if they're there, that's great, but there's nothing you can do about it other than just prepare for each game."
That's the one part of Hill that so many people admire -- he just continues to go about his business. Winning is what is important to him and he plans on doing everything in his power to make that happen. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case for the Diamondbacks this season.
"It's just frustrating," Hill said of the D-Backs' inability to get over the hump in 2012. "We haven't been able to finish the ballgames. Yeah, it's frustrating. I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't. But you've got to grind it out, you've just got to keep going. I know that's a cliche, but you honestly have to keep going. We're not going to give up. We're just going to go out tomorrow and prepare like we always do and hopefully put a few more runs on the board."
It should come to no surprise that Aaron Hill leads his team in games played. His positive attitude and preparation have allowed Arizona to stay in the race for a Wild Card spot up to this point.
But even if the D-Backs don't make the playoffs and lose out on some valuable press coverage and sales, they could still get some recognition. Their second baseman could finally be recognized for the stellar play he has exhibited in 2012.
And Aaron Hill would enjoy the recognition and the awards, but he would never admit it. That's just the type of player he is.