Ryan McMahon prepares to step in for Nolan Arenado

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER — In the estimation of Ryan McMahon, Nolan Arenado may just be the best third baseman ever.

McMahon’s upcoming assignment: Replace him.

The Colorado Rockies’ versatile infielder is in line to get the first crack at filling in for Arenado, an eight-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star who was recently traded to St. Louis.

That’s one tough act to follow.

“My goal is just going to be to go out there and be the best version of myself,” said the 26-year-old McMahon, a career .237 hitter with 38 homers. “Nolan is going to go down as probably one of the best third basemen, if not the best, to ever play this game. All I can do is go out there and try to be the best version of myself and try to help this team.”

Although McMahon’s played all over the infield for the Rockies, he grew up in California as a third baseman. He’s the frontrunner to earn the job, with Brendan Rodgers, Chris Owings, Josh Fuentes (Arenado’s cousin) and Colton Welker also in the mix.

“I’ve been getting reps over there and we’ll see how it shakes out,” said McMahon, a second-round pick by Colorado in the 2013 amateur draft. “But I’m definitely excited at the thought of playing third base.”

McMahon has always taken an immense amount of pride in his defense – no matter the position. Last season, he split his time between first base (10 starts), second (28) and third (10). He even played a few innings at shortstop.

For being a plus-defender – manager Bud Black’s description – at any spot he plays, McMahon credits being around Arenado, shortstop Trevor Story and former Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who’s now with the New York Yankees.

“Those guys just go to work defensively,” said McMahon, who committed 10 errors in 263 chances around the infield in 2020. “I feel like it’s really rubbed off on me and kind of how I go about my daily business.

“It’s fun to take away hits from the other team and feel good about helping your squad.”

McMahon started eight of the nine games at third when Arenado went on the injured list late last season with a bruised left shoulder. McMahon batted .250 over that nine-game stretch – it included one start at second – with two homers and six RBIs. He made two errors in the field.

“He played well, made some really good plays,” Black said.

What’s more, he may have just unlocked something at the plate over those final games and without any added pressure given the team was out of the playoff chase.

“We all kind of just were like, `Hey, let’s go out there, let’s grind out these at-bats and play some hard-nosed baseball and finish the season strong,”‘ said McMahon, whose nine homers last season were second-most on the club behind Story’s 11. “I was just a little bit more selective at the plate and honestly just loosened up and had a little bit more fun with it.”

It’s an approach he’s taking into this season.

“It’s got to be a mindset, because 162 games is no joke,” McMahon said. “I think that’s where your daily goals and your daily reminders and having a good group around you to check you back in and stuff like that, and different guys to lean on, that’s when that becomes important.”

Like everyone else, McMahon watches all the highlight plays Arenado has made at third with amazement.

A tough act to follow, indeed.

“You’ve got to kind of come up with your own style when you’re over there at third base,” McMahon said. “I’m going to go over there and do my thing.”

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.