On Tuesday, though, Headley was rewarded for his defensive play when he won his first Gold Glove, as he was voted the top defensive third baseman in the National League by managers and coaches.
The other National League third basemen who were finalists for the award were Aramis Ramirez of the Brewers and David Wright of the Mets.
2012 Gold glove winners
|POS||AL winner||NL winner|
|C||Matt Wieters, BAL||Yadier Molina, STL|
|1B||Mark Teixeira, NYY||Adam LaRoche, WAS|
|2B||Robinson Cano, NYY||Darwin Barney, CHC|
|SS||J.J. Hardy, BAL||Jimmy Rollins, PHI|
|3B||Adrian Beltre, TEX||Chase Headley, SD|
|LF||Alex Gordon, KC||Carlos Gonzalez, COL|
|CF||Adam Jones, BAL||Andrew McCutchen, PIT|
|RF||Josh Reddick, OAK||Jason Heyward, ATL|
|P||Jeremy Hellickson, TB
Jake Peavy, CWS
|Mark Buehrle, MIA|
"When the finalists were announced, it became a little more real," Headley said. "It's a tremendous award. I'm truly blessed. There are a lot of great third basemen in the league."
Headley becomes the 10th different Padre to win a Gold Glove Award. The last was first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who won the second of his two Gold Gloves in 2009.
Headley is only the second third baseman in franchise history to win the award. Ken Caminiti won three consecutive Gold Gloves from 1995-97.
"The great plays are fun to make, but your pitchers count on you to make the routine play," Headley said.
For as big a season as Headley had offensively -- leading the NL in RBIs with 115 -- it was his defense that he wanted to work on most in Spring Training. So he paired off with third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, who works with infielders, on working to become more consistent.
"Last year defensively didn't go how I would have liked to it have gone. But I talked with Glenn Hoffman about some things and got after it in Spring Training," Headley said. "It's something I take pride in. You want to be the best you can be. There was a focus on it in Spring Training.
"Footwork for me is the most important part for me to playing good defense. I think I've improved on a number of areas of my game. The backhand is one of them, the charge play is another we really focused on and getting rid of the ball and turning the double play."
Headley played more innings than any other third baseman in baseball (1,397) and compiled the most total chances (424) in the NL. He had 10 errors and posted the second-best fielding percentage (.976) among all Major League third basemen, trailing only Ramirez (.977).
"I do like to model myself after the old-time player as far as playing every day," Headley said.
Headley also started 159 games, the most among NL third basemen.
"Games played and innings played, I love those ones," Padres manager Bud Black said in September. "... You're talking about a six-month season when you want your guys out there a lot. I admire that out of players. He's done that. He's shown durability, absolutely."
Wright, who has won two Gold Glove Awards (2007-08), had a 15.4 ultimate zone rating according to Fangraphs and had 16 defensive runs saved, another metric used by some to determine defensive worth. Headley, on the other hand, had a 6.0 UZR and a minus-three in terms of DRS.
Of course, it probably didn't hurt Headley that his Gold Glove Award comes on the heels of his finest offensive season, one that saw him hit .286 with 31 home runs with those 115 RBIs.
His defense was markedly improved as well, in his own estimation and that of others.
"The coaching staff and the players saw the elevated play not only at the plate but in the field. I think we've seen the defense coming the last couple of years," said Black. "His everyday effort has shown up on defense. I think the offense put him on another level that made him more visible to everyone. They saw the all-around play, not only at the plate but in the field."