MLB Insider: Nolan Arenado has a fan in Adrian Beltre
05/10/2014 7:06 PM
11/12/2014 5:15 PM
The loudest cheer Tuesday night at Coors Field, in a game in which the home team did almost nothing wrong, came in the seventh inning of a game that had already been decided.
The only drama remaining was if Nolan Arenado, the second-year third baseman who quickly has become a fan favorite, would extend his hitting streak.
Somewhat surprisingly, Arenado had only taken hits away as Colorado built a 10-1 lead over the Rangers.
And the taking-hits-away thing isn’t a surprise at all.
But Arenado came through in his final at-bat, pushing his hitting streak to a crowd-pleasing 26 games on his way to a club-record 28 and continuing to build credibility with his idol who was playing third base for the other team.
Welcome to the Mutual Admiration Society, Third Basemen Chapter.
Arenado and Beltre, both Gold Glove winners, couldn’t stop saying enough good things about each other last week as the Rockies and Rangers played each other four times.
The young, fresh-legged Arenado may have passed Beltre in the conversation about who is the top defensive third baseman in the game. But don’t tell that to the 23-year-old.
“Beltre is No. 1,” Arenado said after being asked to name his top three at the hot corner. “I’ve always been a big fan. To me, he’s a future Hall of Famer.”
Beltre provided a list, too, with Arenado, Manny Machado and Evan Longoria in his top three.
Machado, who ended Beltre’s two-year Gold Glove reign in the American League last year, and Longoria, the winner in 2009 and 2010, were on Arenado’s list as well.
“I’m not even close to those guys,” Beltre said.
In just a quick four-game sampling against the Rangers, Arenado provided plenty of evidence to support his case that he is the best, as if last year becoming the first rookie third baseman to win a Gold Glove since 1957 wasn’t enough.
He made all the plays — right, left, charging, back-pedaling — and twice Tuesday took hits away from Beltre in scoring opportunities before the Rockies scored six runs in the sixth inning to pull away to a 12-1 victory.
“That kid’s a human highlight reel,” manager Ron Washington said.
Arenado grew up in the Los Angeles area watching Beltre when he was with the Dodgers and trying not to miss a chance to drop down to Anaheim to catch a Seattle series after Beltre signed with the Mariners.
He noticed the different arm angles that Beltre could throw from, ones that were forbidden by his father and coaches.
But as Arenado grew and his arm became stronger, he used his memories of Beltre as a reference for making tough, side-armed throws.
“Sometimes plays call for different angles, so you have to throw from there,” Arenado said.
The two met in spring training a few years ago during Arenado’s first big-league camp, but Beltre was drawn closer to Arenado over the off-season.
A friend relayed a newspaper article on Arenado in which he revealed his man crush on Beltre.
Flattered, Beltre, who had already become a fan of Arenado just by seeing highlights and asking other players about him, reached out this past spring.
“I signed one of my gloves for him in spring training, to show him I’m a big fan,” Beltre said. “I became a fan because I like the way he works. I like the way he goes about his business.
“Now, I’m a fan. But I was a little hurt because he stole from me a couple hits and a couple RBIs.”
Beltre is on the downhill side of a career that began in 1998 when he was 19.
He has collected four Gold Gloves in his career and was one of the three finalists in 2013, but he wasn’t the same player defensively.
The metrics bore that out. So did the eye test. But there are only a few teams around that wouldn’t want him on their team.
Colorado is one of them. The Rockies may have the best third baseman going.
Just ask Arenado’s idol.
“I feel like I see in him myself when I came up early. I was hungry, and I was trying to do things the right way,” Beltre said. “He looks like he’s going to be one of the best for a while. If he’s not the best, he’s one of the best in the business right now.”
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