Arenado: Good as Gold at Third Base — Again

Consecutive GG
Rookie Season On No. Years
Johnny Bench, c 10 1968-77
Ichiro Suzuki, of 10 2001-10
Nolan Arenado, 3b 6 2013-2018
Charles Johnson, c 4 1995-1998
Frank Malzone, 3b 3 1957-59
Ken Hubbs, 2b 1 1962
Carlton Fisk, c 1 1972
Sandy Alomar, Jr., c 1 1990
*Tommy Agee, of 1 1966
x
*-Also won GG 1970

Nolan Arenado makes playing third base look easy.

It isn’t.

On Sunday night, Arenado became only the third player and first infielder in history to win a Gold Glove in his first six big-league seasons, a growing tribute to the determination and focus that allowed Arenado to become one of the game’s premiere players.

Arenado was joined among the NL Gold Glove winners by teammate DJ LeMahieu, selected for the award as a second baseman for the third time, and former Rockies teammate Corey Dickerson, who went from a DH in Tampa who was non-tendered last off-season to signing with the Pirates and being voted the best left fielder in the NL by managers and coaches in 2018.

Only Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, a Gold Glove winner his first 10 seasons with the Reds, and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who won the award his first 10 seasons after coming to the Mariners from Japan, began a career with more Gold Glove Awards than Arenado.

Like Bench, Arenado was a second-round draft choice, and like Bench, Arenado well could have become a catcher.

Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt is quick to point out the Rockies did not envision Arenado as an everyday third baseman, much less an annual all-star and Gold Glove winner.

“He was a bit chunky, but he had a strong arm, and (crosschecker) Ty Coslow would talk about never seeing him mis-hit a ball,” Schmidt said. “He didn’t necessarily hit balls over the fence, but he never mis-hit one. We thought he might be a catcher.”

Arenado knew that. However, he also knew the Rockies were going to let him play third base initially. And he knew it was up to him to prove he could play the position.

“I was willing (to convert to catcher), but it wasn’t what my heart wanted to do,” Arenado said. “I was willing to do it because it was going to get me drafted higher and give me a chance to play pro ball.

“I always believed I could play in the infield, but I was a little slow and I could see why teams had questions. I was a little out of shape, too.”

Gabe Bauer, the Rockies’ director of physical performance who was working at the minor league level at the time, was there to provide Arenado guidance.

“He was telling me I was going to get moved (to catcher) if I didn’t get in shape,” Arenado said. “I lost 20 pounds that first offseason. I came back lean and ready to go.”

When Arenado reached high Class A Modesto in 2011, Nuts manager Jerry Weinstein told the Rockies they needed to leave him at third.

“We worked early almost every day,” Arenado said. “It didn’t matter if we had a late bus ride the night before. Every day we had an early workout at 1 p.m. Then we had batting practice, some drills again, then play the game. He gave me the push on those days I didn’t want to work. He wouldn’t let me slack off.”

It is a lesson Arenado learned well. His work ethic today is stronger than ever.

Most Gold Gloves
Third Baseman No.
Brooks Robinson 16
Mike Schmidt 10
Scott Rolen 8
Nolan Arenado 6
Buddy Bell 6
Robin Ventura 6
Adrian Beltre 5
Ken Boyer 5
Doug Rader 5
Ron Santo 5

Even with six Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers and five All-Star Game appearances, Arenado isn’t satisfied.

“It’s never-ending work,” he said. “I don’t want to let up. You could get lazy out here. I think the older you get, the more you have to keep on it. So I always try to do my drills, and do them the same way I did my rookie year.”

And just like his rookie year, when he was called up four weeks into the 2013 season, he is still winning Gold Gloves.

It took Dickerson longer to make the statement with his defense, which only added to his feeling of satisfaction in being honored along with Arenado and LeMahieu, his former teammates, on Sunday night.

Dickerson could always hit, but in the sizable left field at Coors Field, he was challenged, which prompted the Rockies to deal him to Tampa Bay, along with minor league third baseman Kevin Padlo, in January 2016 for right-handed starting pitcher German Marquez, and left-handed reliever Jake McGee. Primarily a DH in Tampa, he came into the 2018 season eight a minus eight defensive runs saved rating in left field.

In Pittsburgh, however, his runs saved rating was plus 16.

And the Gold Glove voters agreed.

“My whole career I have been told I only can hit, never play defense,” said Dickerson. “
“This is very satisfying.”

Dickerson said his confidence began to build when he joined the Pirates last spring.

“Neal (Huntington, Pirates general manager) and Clint (Hurdle, manager) told me I was going to play every day, and not be double-switched (out of the game) anymore,” said Dickerson. “I was able to go out and player every day and really gain confidence.”

Dickerson said the ultimate sign of the confidence the Pirates had in him was when he was put into a game defensively as part of a double situation.

“That’s never happened to your before, has it,” Dickerson remembered Hurdle saying to him. “That’s how much confidence I have in you.”

LeMahieu had to answer his skeptics, too. When former general manager Dan O’Dowd decided that LeMahieu should get a shot a playing second base, the doubters said at 6-foot-3 he was too tall.

LeMahieu became only the second player 6-foot-3 are taller to play more than 100 games at second base in Major League history, joining High Pockets Kelly, a Hall of Fame first baseman, who started 107 games at second base in 1925, when Frankie Frisch, also a Hall of Famer, filled in at third baseman for 43 starts, and shortstop for 36, in addition to 41 starts at second base.

Nobody questions LeMahieu’s ability to play second baseman anymore. Same goes for Arenado at third base and Dickerson in left field.

2018 AL Gold Glove Winners 2018 NL Gold Glove Winners
1B Matt Olson, A's (1st) 1b (tie) Anthony Rizzo, Cubs (2nd)
2B Ian Kinsler, Red Sox (2nd) Freddie Freeman, Braves (1st)
3B Matt Chapman, A's (1st) 2B DJ LeMahieu, Rockies (3rd)
SS Andrelton Simmons, Angels (4th) 3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies (6th)
LF Alex Gordon, Royals (6th) SS Nick Ahmed, Diamondbacks (1st)
CF Jackie Bradley, Red Sox (1st) LF Corey Dickson, Pirates (1st)
RF Mookie Betts, Red Sox (3rd) CF Ender Inciarte, Braves (3rd)
C Salvador Perez, Royals (5) RF Nick Markakis, Braves (1st)
P Dallas Keukel, Astros (4) C Yadier Molina, Cardinals (9th)
P Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks (5th)
Tracy RingolsbyComment