CarGo, Arenado power way to Silver Sluggers
Rockies outfielder, third baseman among best hitters in baseball
DENVER -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez believes a lighter attitude is better. The tighter the situation, the bigger his smile. Third baseman Nolan Arenado approaches the game with grinding intensity. He feels good times can turn bad, and bad times can worsen if he lets up.
The two players' personalities, however, blend. Balancing each other off the field, as well as in the lineup, they achieved powerful offensive seasons that resulted in each winning a National League Silver Slugger Award.
It was the second for Gonzalez, 30, who won one in 2010, and the first for Arenado, 24. When the Louisville Silver Slugger Awards were announced Thursday, the teammates expressed happiness that NL managers and coaches, who vote for a player at each position (including three outfielders), saw them as a feared pair.
"Nolan is my youngest brother," Gonzalez said. "He's always right here beside me."
Added Arenado: "We're like a couple. We both care, just in different ways."
Arenado and the Nationals' Bryce Harper tied for the NL lead in homers, with 42. Gonzalez finished third with 40. Arenado also led the Majors in RBIs with 130, extra-base hits with 89 (a Major League record for a third baseman), and total bases with 354.
Gonzalez's 27 home runs after the All-Star break tied a club record (Dante Bichette, 1995) and his 62 post-break RBIs led the Majors. Even more, Gonzalez hit .295 with 36 homers and 84 RBIs.
Each credited some of his good fortune to the other.
Gonzalez had his effectiveness reduced the last two years, by a right-middle finger injury in 2013 and two maladies that required surgery in 2014 -- a benign tumor in his left index finger that forced a June operation and a left-knee injury that ended his season in August. A long offseason of rehab left him at a lighter weight than usual and healthy enough to play, but he was still working on increasing his leg strength and size when the year started. Through May 22 he was hitting .201.
Gonzalez said it helped seeing Arenado energetically adhere to a vigorous weight-training and stretching routine, as if it would all fall apart if he missed a day.
"In this game, we get tired -- it's hard to have energy every day," Gonzalez said. "Then you see Nolan working so hard every day. He's taking 100 ground balls and 200 swings in the cage, every day. It reminds you how much we love this game. I knew I had the ability to get back to what I was, but seeing him made me want to get better. We got better together at what we were doing."
When Arenado entered the Majors in 2013, he did much of his in-season and offseason work with similarly intense players, now-retired first baseman Todd Helton and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, now with the Blue Jays.
But he also developed a friendship with Gonzalez, who would react to rough games -- his own, Arenado's or the team's -- with a joke at the most tense time.
"If we play bad, I'm all upset and he'll be like, 'Man, [Mets pitcher Jacob] deGrom was too nasty today. I can't hit. I'm over it,'" Arenado said. "[Gonzalez will] make jokes, make me laugh, hug me or give me a hug and tell me it's all right. He brings the light side of it. I love him, for him to take his time with me."
They had a blast together in September, when Arenado homered in six straight games from Sept. 1-5, and Gonzalez homered five times from Sept. 2-4.
"That was one of the craziest moments I've had in this game," Arenado said. "I was hitting homers and he was, too. And I was so happy for him, having watched him go off like that after struggling -- because he set an example by staying positive."
Arenado has won NL Rawlings Gold Glove Awards in each of his three Major League seasons. This year he also took The Fielding Bible and Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards, demonstrating his defensive dominance.
And Gonzalez is happy to have witnessed Arenado become a complete player.
"After the first one or two months, I saw where he was heading," Gonzalez said. "I told him, 'You're going to have a great year and I'm going to be real proud of you.' He's only 24. He's the kind of player that we'll be talking about after he retires."