JUPITER, Fla. — Nolan Arenado has no regrets.
While the baseball world continues to analyze and dissect the Colorado Rockies’ decision to trade away its $260 million franchise player, fueled by Arenado’s long-drawn-out frustration by the team’s failure to succeed in October, the eight-time Gold Glover and five-time All-Star is relishing life with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I’ve moved on. That might hurt some people’s feelings over there, but I have,” Arenado told ESPN in an exclusive interview. “They’ll always have a special place in my heart, the fans — the people. Regardless of the people that don’t like me there, or I don’t like them, I appreciate every single one of them. I appreciate the love. I appreciate the hate. I know that I can look back at my years in Colorado and know that I gave everything that I had. I have no regrets. Now I’m here in St. Louis and I’m going to give them everything I have too.”
The addition of Arenado, a generational talent both defensively and offensively, instantly made St. Louis favorites in what was already a winnable National League Central. Over the past six seasons, Arenado’s 33.0 WAR is first among third basemen and third most in the majors — behind only former American League MVPs Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.
But Arenado is careful to take pause ahead of insinuations of any guaranteed meeting with the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers in October.
“[It] would be pretty cool to be in the NLCS championship in L.A. and playing against them and facing [Clayton] Kershaw and those guys,” Arenado said. “But we have to focus on Opening Day, and winning one game at a time. I think there’s a good chance that the Dodgers are going to be there. And they would probably say the same thing that I’m saying right now, that they have a lot of hard work to do and they have to focus on themselves and winning every game. We need to focus on that first, and then hopefully we can get to that point.”
In the interim, Arenado is eager to head to Busch Stadium for his debut in a Redbirds uniform. The 29-year-old, who has finished in the top five of the National League MVP voting three times, has embraced what he calls the “Cardinal Way.”
“I’m going to miss some of my boys in Colorado, the people that I care about over there. I’ve known them since I was a 17-year-old, or when I was called up at 22. But the sweet moment was coming here to a great organization with great history and with great players. Players that I’ve admired for a long time,” he said. “It’s a different vibe. The meetings. The attention to detail. They talk about things that I’ve never heard before as far as rules, plays, how we need to approach the plays. How we need to touch a base to go to the next base. If there’s a first and third situation — how I need to go, where to be. We went over the stuff in Colorado. But the way they explain it or the way they want you to do it is different. I love it.”
And Arenado gets to do it mentored by one of his favorite players in veteran catcher Yadier Molina.
“Yadier was one of the first guys I ever asked for a bat to sign for me. I don’t ask too many people for bats, and he was one of them,” he said. “The way he explains things, the way he cares. The attention to detail in the way he is about explaining the way he catches. What he wants me to do or how I need to approach the game. He’s locked in to every meeting, every little thing. It’s impressive to watch. I’ve never been around a veteran player who’s done what he’s done, obviously headed to the Hall of Fame, and he’s still locked in like the rookie that just got first year big league camp. It’s amazing to watch and it’s made me a better player. It’s made me a better person.”
Arenado grew up in Orange County rooting for the Dodgers, particularly for Eric Karros and Shawn Green, and his favorite player of all time, Adrian Beltré. Once L.A. passed him over in the 2009 draft, Arenado was hurt by the fact that the Dodgers never saw him as a top-rounder. That made it even harder for him to lose to them every year as a member of the Rockies in the National League West.
“I remember in ’17, we lost to the Diamondbacks [in the National League wild-card game.] I was so devastated because I wanted to go to L.A. just to face them in the division series,” Arenado said. “I wanted all my family to be there.”
The Dodgers ended their World Series drought during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, winning their first championship since 1988.
How did Arenado truly feel watching the Dodgers win their first title in his lifetime?
“I grew up a Dodgers fan and my family was pretty excited about the Dodgers winning,” he admitted. “Was I mad about it? Not really. They were the better team. The Dodgers deserved to win and that’s what they got.
“I didn’t feel any animosity. Being in the division against them, I was like, ‘I don’t know how this team hasn’t won it yet! Every time we play them, they kick our butt, and they still haven’t won a World Series yet.’ They finally got it done. I’m tired of hearing about them — it’s like the Cowboys. You hear about them winning the Super Bowl and they don’t do it. The Dodgers won and they deserved it.”