State of Arenado: Rockies Third Baseman Teams up with Trevor Story to Assume Leadership Role
Nolan Arenado arrived in the big leagues with the Rockies in late April 2013. Three years later, he found himself standing alongside rookie Trevor Story on the left side of the Rockies infield.
Now look at them. They have arguably become the best left side of an infield in Major League Baseball. Arenado is the first player in history to win a Gold Glove in each of his first seven Major League seasons.
And Arenado, 29, and Story, 27, have a veteran-type approach to the Rockies, stepping forward to assume a leadership role -- even before the onset of the coronavirus.
"Story and I talked during the off-season," Arenado said in a Zoom Call with media members. "I told him, `you hold me accountable, and I will hold you accountable.'"
And then came the uncertainity created by the coronavirus, which added to the leadership roles for Arenado and Story.
"We have a lot of young players that are getting better, but we need to push them to develop quicker," said Arenado. "The season is only 60 games."
The Rockies do have one of the youngest starting lineups in Major League Baseball. First baseman Daniel Murphy (35) and right fielder Charlie Blackmon (34) are the only members who are on the backside of 30.
But youth is not an excuse, as both Arenado and Story have shown.
Arenado has won Gold Glove Awards in each of his seven big-league seasons, and is the only player to earn three Rawlings Platinum Glove Awards. He's a five-time All-Star, voted into the starting lineup three times, and has finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting each of the last four seasons, including finishing in the top five from 2016-18.
Want more? He's the first player since Mike Schmidt to lead the NL in home runs three or more times. He is one of four third baseman, along with Mike Schmidt, Vinny Castilla and Eddie Matthews, to have three 40-home run seasons, and has joined Albert Belle as the only players in MLB history to have four consecutive seasons of at least 35 home runs and 35 doubles.
Oh, and he doesn't turn 30 until April 16 next year.
Story is coming off back-to-back seasons of being selected to the NL All-Star team, and also receiving a Silver Slugger Award. His 100th career home run came on May 24, 2019, in his 448th big-league game, the fewest games for any Major League shortstop, 22 games quick than Alex Rodriguez.
He is the first shortstop in MLB history to hit 20 or more home runs in each of his first four big-league seasons, and is the only shortstop other than Rodriguez to have multiple seasons of at least 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases.
They, however, realize there is more than numbers if they want to be part of a successful team.
"It starts with us," said Story. "We have to set the tone. Guys are going to look at us. It comes with it. We have to challenge our teammates."
And they realize there is a void with Ian Desmond opting out of this season because of various concerns, both on the field and off.
"We are going to miss Desi," said Story. "He was a vocal leader for us, and he still will be."
But Desmond will be a leader from afar, spending the summer with his four children and wife, who is expecting the couple's fifth child, in Sarasota, Fla.
"Nolan and I have talked a lot about wanting to be there for the guys on this team, and to challenge the guys," said Story.
Arenado isn't buying the idea that the 60-game regular season will take the glamor off 2020.
"It's 60 games," he said, "and 162 games are a lot more. But this is what it is this year. I think it is legitimate. Some guys say it is not. If I felt it wasn't legitimate I wouldn't be here. I want to win and have a chance to win the World Series."
And to be there it is going to take more than a couple of players. It is a team thing, which is the point that is being underscored in the early days of baseball's Summer Camp.
"Being there for them is letting them know, `I'm going to go as hard as I can to get ready for this season,' and I expect them to do it if I'm doing it," said Arenado. "The intensity right now has been fun. It's tiring at the end of the night, but I know it is going to pay dividends in the long run."
The biggest dividend would be a world championship -- something still missing from the resume of the Rockies, who are embarking on their 28th season, is a world championship. They have made five post-season appearances, but have only reached the World Series once, in 2007, when they were swept by the Boston Red Sox.
Their expansion cousin Marlins have advanced to the post-season only twice, but both times won World Series.
Since the Rockies 1993 debut, 15 of MLB's 30 teams have won World Championships, although the Giants (2010, 2012 and 2014) and the Diamondbacks (2001) are the only NL West teams to win the final game of a baseball season.
In fairness, the Dodgers have advanced to the post-season 13 times, but only twice advanced to the World Series, losing to the Astros in seven games in 2017 and the Red Sox in five games in 2018.
The Rockies, however, are not on an island. There are five teams, all born of expansion, who have never won a World Series -- the Padres and Brewers (1969), Mariners (1997), Rockies (1993) and Rays (1998).
And the originals that have not won a World Series since the arrival of the Rockies include the Twins (1991), Reds (1990), A's (1989), Dodgers (1988), Mets (1986), Tigers (1984), Orioles (1983), and lastly, the Cleveland Indians, who have not celebrated a World Championship since 1948.
Arenado is committed to the Rockies making that next step and feels this year is as good as any. That's why he's been at Coors Field, working out the last few days, looking to help the Rockies win the final game of the 2020 season.
"We have to push it," said Arenado.