St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader catches a fly ball hit by Chicago Cubs' Nico Hoerner during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, July 22, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Joe Puetz)

( — The Cardinals continued their run as one of the most formidable defensive teams in Major League Baseball in 2021. By regularly making the difficult plays appear routine and allowing the seemingly impossible ones to come together before our eyes, the Cardinals were once again the pinnacle of fielding prowess across the league.

Their efforts were acknowledged Thursday afternoon when Rawlings announced the finalists for the 2021 Gold Glove Awards. 

Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman, Nolan Arenado, Tyler O'Neill and Harrison Bader were listed as finalists for the award at their respective positions. With six finalists, St. Louis earned the most Gold Glove finalists among all MLB teams (The Houston Astros had five, plus Myles Straw, who was traded away at the deadline).

Those representing the Cardinals as finalists this season already lay claim to a combined 21 Gold Glove Awards throughout their careers. Molina leads the way with nine, followed by Arenado's eight, Goldschmidt's three and O'Neill's one. 

In 2020, two Cardinals were named Gold Glove Award recipients: O'Neill and Kolten Wong, who departed in the off-season for the Milwaukee Brewers after the Cardinals declined to exercise the 2021 option on his contract. Wong rewarded the Brewers for signing him in free agency, posting the second-best OPS of his career (.783) with a career-high slugging percentage (.447). The two-time Gold Glove winner also made his mark defensively as he seeks a third consecutive award.

Wong's replacement on the infield dirt in St. Louis, however, put together a campaign worthy of consideration. Offensively, Tommy Edman made his mark by finishing one behind the league-leader in doubles at 41. He also became the first Cardinal to steal 30 bases since Edgard Renteria in 2003.

On the defensive side, Edman proved his was more than capable of filling the void left by his predecessor. 

After taking home the first Gold Glove of his career last season, Tyler O'Neill put together another memorable defensive portfolio in 2021.

Oh, don't run on him, either.

O'Neill's outfield-mate Harrison Bader is still seeking his first-career Gold Glove. His efforts throughout the 2021 season might have been enough to get him to that promised land.

But we can't forget about the man himself, Nolan Arenado. It would be a pretty significant upset for any other National League third baseman to unseat Arenado from his golden throne, which consists of eight consecutive wins coming into 2021.

Nolan doesn't rely on reputation for the wins, though; he added to his highlight reel frequently throughout this past season.

You've got to love this next call on the national broadcast: "You better try somebody else."

Or the time Arenado defied gravity to turn a double play.

The sheer variety of ways for Arenado to end up on a highlight reel is truly astonishing.

Teamwork makes the dream work

One of the things that made the 2021 Cardinals special defensively was the collaborative nature in which they worked. We saw numerous times the benefits of a situationally aware St. Louis defense. The combined veteran presence of Goldschmidt, Arenado and Molina resulted in several eye-popping double plays in critical parts of games for the Cardinals throughout the summer.

And of course, the most memorably ridiculous play of the entire MLB season:

The Cardinals could probably take home some serious hardware just based upon that last play alone, but we'll have to wait a little longer to learn who will take home the awards for 2021. The winners will be revealed on Sunday, Nov. 7, on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. CT.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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