CarGo: Arenado's Gold Glove the first of many
Rookie's first award helps build third baseman's reputation as one of game's best
Rockies rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado has earned more than the National League Rawlings Gold Glove Award. As teammate Carlos Gonzalez, a left fielder who earned his third Gold Glove, can attest, Arenado has a reputation, which can be valuable.
"When you win the first one, it's a lot easier to get the other one," said Gonzalez, who won in 2010 and '12, and along with Arenado was announced Tuesday night as a winner this season.
"You create a reputation around the league," Gonzalez said during a conference call with Denver media on Wednesday. "This is an award that is picked by the managers and coaches. We get to play against those guys a lot of times. They know who's going to be on each position.
"They're going to know who's on third base, they're going to know who's in left field. At the end of the year, it makes it a lot easier for us to win the second one. This will be the first of many for Nolan because he's such a great player on the corner. Hopefully, I continue my streak."
When the Rockies take the field in 2014, there will be three players with strong defensive reputations. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, was a finalist this year, and only significant time out with a rib injury may have stopped him from winning again.
Gonzalez actually played fewer games defensively than Tulowitzki -- 106, to Tulowitzki's 121 -- because of a right middle finger injury that hampered him during the second half, but he could not be denied because of his frequent highlight-level work in the first half and the fact he still led the league with 11 assists from left.
Arenado became the first NL rookie third baseman to win the award. The only other rookie at the position to win was the Red Sox's Frank Malzone in 1957. Arenado was just the 10th rookie to win a Gold Glove at any position. He hopes to parlay the reputation into more items for his trophy case.
"I like the reputation," Arenado said. "I want to win more of these -- most important thing, I want to win. I want to help my team. I know if I keep that mindset, more of these awards are going to come."
One drawback of being known for defense is that teams avoid plays that give such a fielder opportunities to make highlights. Gonzalez has a unique way of combating this issue.
Sometimes it looks as if Gonzalez is drifting, even loafing, but there is a purpose.
With the ball in the air, Gonzalez keeps a smooth stride so his head doesn't bounce, which costs him vision, and the smooth running style means he doesn't slow himself down by wasting motion. After the ball hits the ground, he stays slow in an effort to lure a runner and the other team's coaches into running into an out.
It isn't the Eric Byrnes dive-and-get-dirty hustle, but it's a hustle nonetheless.
"That's how I get my assists," he said. "The reputation is going to be there. The coaches, first-base coach and third-base coach, they know who's playing at each position out there, who's got the strongest arm on the team. Most of time, I don't have opportunity to throw anybody out because they stop the guy. They don't try to get the extra base.
"I try to play a little game with them. Let the ball get deeper, and don't charge the ball too hard so they can think about getting the extra base. That's how I throw people out sometimes."
Because he is in the outfield, Gonzalez is in greater control of his defensive performance than Arenado, who needs a dependable first baseman to handle the throw when he takes chances on plays. Arenado loses one of the best in Todd Helton, who retired at the end of the season, but he has confidence in possible replacement Michael Cuddyer.
The Rockies are seeking to improve the offense. One possibility is to sign a right fielder and move Cuddyer, who has played 41 games at first in the last two years with the Rockies and 251 career games there, to replace Helton.
"He knows the game, he knows what to do over there with the bag, which is nice," Arenado said. "He's not afraid. He can scoop, man. He's a good first baseman. I believe he's pretty underrated. He doesn't play there a lot, but when he does, he does a good job."
No matter who ends up at first, expect Arenado to be aggressive with his throws. He shows extreme range, and he is willing to attempt the tough throw at the risk of being charged with an error.
"A lot of my instincts, when I feel like I need to do something, I'm going to do it," he said. "I try not to hesitate."