Philadelphia Phillies icon Mike Schmidt tops all third baseman in major league history in terms of bWAR, WAR-7, JAWS and home runs. The 10-time Gold Glove Award winner is universally considered to be the greatest third baseman in baseball history. But Schmidt made a bold declaration to Tyler Kepner of The New York Times this past March – Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado was the “heir apparent” to the title of greatest third baseman of all-time.
Arenado, 27, is one home run away from his fourth consecutive season of 35 or more home runs. He’s already topped the 100 RBI mark for the fourth time in as many years. With the Phillies in Colorado, NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s play-by-play announcer, Tom McCarthy, asked Arenado about the praise he’s received from Schmidt, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Arenado voiced his appreciation for the love Schmidt has shown him:
“As we know, Schmitty [Mike Schmidt] always talks in glowing terms about [Rockies third baseman Nolan] Arenado. [He says] that he’s the best defensive third baseman that he’s seen, he could be the best overall third baseman by the time his career is over with. And I asked him if he had heard those comments and he said that he had heard them. He said ‘you know what makes me feel even better about it? First of all it’s from Mike Schmidt. So that, all by itself, says a lot to me, it makes me feel good about it. But I’ve taken a lot of heat about playing for the Rockies and playing in Colorado and he doesn’t talk about that. He talks about me as an overall player. And that makes me feel good because a lot of people don’t always talk about that.’ “
For the fourth consecutive year, Arenado started at third base for the National League All-Star team in 2018. Short of Manny Machado moving back to third base for a National League team, it appears like that streak will continue for some time to come. Arenado doesn’t grade out quite as well as Schmidt did defensively, but the five-time Gold Glove Award winner already has 109 career defensive runs saved and a 48.4 career defensive WAR. On top of that, the former second-round pick is slashing .296/.375/.546 with 72 walks, a 22.4 offensive WAR and a 5.2 fWAR, marking the third consecutive season that he’s reached the 5.0 fWAR mark.
Will Arenado be considered the greatest third baseman of all-time at the conclusion of his career? Probably not. Schmidt reached the 35 home run mark 11 times in his career. He also posted an fWAR of 6.0 or higher 11 times in his career. Schmidt’s dominance lasted for such an extended period that he’s universally considered the best to ever play a position that has also been home to Eddie Matthews, Wade Boggs, Adrian Beltre, Brooks Robinson, Chipper Jones and George Brett, among others. Arenado has also spent all of his career thus far playing home games at Coors Field, which has worked against the Hall of Fame case of Larry Walker and probably also will against Todd Helton. Arenado is on a trajectory to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but right or wrong, playing at one of the most hitter-friendly parks baseball has ever seen will be held against him when debating his place among the all-time great third baseman.
Regardless of just how favorably Arenado will be viewed at the conclusion of his career, he’s garnered the support of some notable players whose illustrious careers were finished before he was even born in April of 1991. In addition to Schmidt, McCarthy says that Arenado was left a hand-written letter from Larry Bowa in 2017, praising how he played the game. Arenado said the support of Schmidt and Bowa, who helped lead the Phillies to their first World Series title in 1980, is special to him.
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