Although they haven’t played an official game together with the Cardinals, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado have a chance to be one of the top all-around first-and-third combinations in history.
“Hands down,” said Cardinals voice Mike Shannon, who has been around Major League Baseball for 60 years.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Jim Leyland, who managed extensively in both leagues.
The two have 11 Rawlings Gold Gloves between them, eight by former Colorado star Arenado with the two winning in the same years in 2013, 2015 and 2017 when Goldschmidt was with Arizona.
|2006 Cardinals||1B Albert Pujols, 3B Scott Rolen||.331, .295||49, 22||137, 95|
|1991 Giants||1B Will Clark, 3B Matt Williams||.301, .268||29, 34||116, 98|
|1963 Cardinals||1B Bill White, 3B Ken Boyer||.324, .291||20, 24||102, 98|
|2019 Athletics||1B Matt Olson, 3B Matt Chapman||.267, .249||36, 36||91, 91|
|1990 Expos||1B Andres Galarraga, 3B Tim Wallach||.256, .296||20, 21||87, 98|
Since the Gold Gloves first were voted on in 1957, the only first-and-third combination that had more gold between them — with the stipulation that each had to win at least two — were former Cardinals first baseman Bill White (seven) and third baseman Ken Boyer (five). But Cardinals Hall of Famer White was not quite considered in Goldschmidt’s class as a run producer at first base. Boyer was a Most Valuable Player in 1964.
Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees (nine Gold Gloves) teamed with Hall of Famer Wade Boggs (two) for a while, and both had big offensive years and won Gold Gloves in 1994 with Mattingly batting .342 and Boggs .304, albeit in a strike-shortened season.
Former Cardinals first baseman Andres “Big Cat” Galarraga won two Gold Gloves in his career with Montreal and teamed with third baseman Tim Wallach, who won three. But they had only two seasons when they had impressive offensive years together with the Expos as Wallach drove in 123 runs and Galarraga 90 in 1987. Both hit 20 or more homers for the Expos in 1990, when each won the Gold Glove.
Excluding the Cardinals’ White-Boyer combination which won Gold Gloves three times in the same year as Cardinals (1960-61 and 1963) and the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols-Scott Rolen combo which won Gold in 2006, there has been only one other National League combination besides Galarraga-Wallach to win Gold as first base-third base tandems in the same year.
That was the 1991 duo of former Cardinals first baseman Will Clark and third baseman Matt Williams. “Will the Thrill” batted .301 with 29 homers and 116 RBIs, and Williams had 34 homers and 98 RBIs, who played for the San Francisco Giants at the time.
The Pujols-Rolen combination in the World Series championship year of 2006 was estimable in that Pujols batted .331 with 49 homers and 137 RBIs and Rolen had 22 homers and 95 RBIs while hitting .295.
That combination’s best year had come in a World Series year two years earlier, when Pujols also hit .331, this time with 46 homers and 123 RBIs and Rolen had his best year as a Cardinal with 34 homers, 124 RBIs and a .314 batting mark.
The best of the White-Boyer Gold Glove years was 1963, when White batted .324 with 20 homers and 102 RBIs and Boyer .291 with 24 homers and 98 RBIs. Their best collective year offensively was the World Series title year in 1964 when White had his best Cardinals season at 27 homers, 109 RBIs and a .304 average and MVP Boyer had 24 homers, 111 RBIs and a .285 average but no Gold Glove, won that year by Chicago’s Ron Santo.
More recently, Oakland first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman collected Gold Gloves in 2018 and 2019. Their power numbers were notable, but their batting averages were not on the potential Goldschmidt-Arenado scale.
In 2019, their best year, both Olson and Chapman had 36 homers and 91 RBIs but hit .247 and .269, respectively.
Leyland, upon reflection, brought up the Colorado Rockies, whom he managed in 1998. Colorado third baseman Vinny Castilla didn’t win any gold for the Rockies although he had a strong, true arm. He and Galarraga, then the Rockies’ first baseman, put together a stretch of three great years together from 1995-97. And three-time Gold Glove winner Todd Helton took over in 1998, posting two strong seasons with Castilla as the third baseman.
With Coors Field as the friendly backdrop, Galarraga and Castilla took the first-and-third combination where it never had been with seasons of 40 or more homers by each in 1996 and 1997, with Galarraga driving in a total of 290 runs in those two years and Castilla 226.
Castilla then knocked in 144 runs in 1998 and hit 46 homers while Helton hit 35 homers in both 1998 and 1999 and Castilla 37 in 1999. But, again, no Gold for Castilla.
Shannon cited the Joe Adcock-Eddie Mathews first-third combination from the Milwaukee Braves in the late 1950s and early 1960s, although there was no Gold for either with White, Boyer and Santo around.
In five different seasons while they were together, Adcock and Hall of Famer Mathews each had at least 25 homers, and the pair combined for eight totals of 90 or more RBIs.
Minnesota third baseman Gary Gaetti won four Gold Gloves and had some large offensive seasons for the Minnesota Twins, who beat the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series when slugging Kent Hrbek, a good fielder, was at first base. Gaetti had 31 homers and 109 RBIs in 1987 and Hrbek had 34 and 90 but did not win any gold.
Leyland noted that their time together may have been short but that Hall of Famer Willie Stargell was the co-MVP at first base for the Pittsburgh Pirates World Series champions of 1979 and that third baseman Bill Madlock won four batting titles in his career.
Chipper Jones was a Hall of Fame third baseman at Atlanta, Leyland pointed out, and first baseman Fred McGriff hit 130 of his 493 homers for the Braves in what should be a Hall of Fame career.
“And how about this?” said Leyland. “Didn’t Tony Perez play first and Pete Rose for the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati?”
Indeed, they did for the 1975-76 World Series champions.
Perez did not win Gold but knocked in 1,652 runs in his career. Rose won two Gold Gloves in his career but none at third base.
“Yeah,” said Leyland, “but he had about 5,000 hits (actually 4,256).”
Leyland, a consultant with the Detroit Tigers, is intrigued to see how good the Goldschmidt-Arenado duo can be for the Cardinals.
“It’s a helluva combination. I know that,” Leyland said. He ought to know. Leyland managed them on the winning U.S. squad in the most recent World Baseball Classic in 2017.