WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Anthony Rendon begrudgingly hopped onto the same black counter in the clubhouse as last year, swallowed hard, then took his medicine.
Being the center of a media pack is among Rendon’s least-favorite activities. He’s groused in passing or directly about talking to reporters. That side of his personality runs counter to the one he shares with teammates -- a jovial sort who called a “travel” Wednesday on Brian Dozier when the new second baseman dragged his foot during a drill. Rendon often works with his hood and guard up. Tedium is exhausting for him. Why did he hit two homers one night? He doesn’t know. If he did, he would just do it every night. What kind of pitch was he looking for? One to hit.
There is no push for outside popularity. And, it’s probably cost him to this point. Rendon has finished fifth, sixth and 11th, respectively, in National League MVP voting in three of his six years in Major League Baseball. Yet, he’s never been an All-Star.
The rare instances when Rendon shakes his reticence to public speaking reveals insight and consideration. He’s entering the final year of his contract with the Nationals well aware his agent, Scott Boras, and the Washington front office are discussing an extension. That, like so much else, is a simplistic idea to Rendon.
“I’m all ears,” Rendon told NBC Sports Washington. “I think it’s like any other job. If you want an extension as a reporter or a media guy or whatever you want to do, I think you are going to open up your ears to talking about a raise or whatever it might be. I’m in the same position. Why wouldn’t I want to be open to hear what another team or what this team has to offer or what they want to say?”
Rendon is part of Scott Boras’ expansive clientele list in the Nationals’ clubhouse. He may also be the first Boras client to wrest some control of the conversation, though Boras’ voluminous speaking style dwarfs Rendon’s few public conversations.
Wednesday, Rendon made a distinct point about the client-agent relationship with the game’s most powerful broker.
“The thing is, what everyone has the misconception of is they think that we work for Scott,” Rendon said. “Like, no. That's not the way it works. Like, I'm telling him how's it going and you can ask him. We've gotten some jibber-jabbers before too, so like, I'm paying him. Nah, that don't fly with me.”
His viewpoint of tolerance with Boras is another layer of Rendon’s fight against anything superfluous. Rendon decided to exert distinct control over Boras’ activity, something he’s not sure other players have done in the past. He’s heard grumbles about Boras’ ways. He’s also decided maybe those who became irritated with Boras’ service were at fault, too.
“It’s awesome to know that you’re working with someone who has been doing it as long as he has,” Rendon told NBC Sports Washington. “Who’s had the amount of success he has with his players. But, obviously, just like everybody else, there’s been negative talks about him where former players have been upset about him. But I think that’s when players don’t maybe establish that line or maybe give him too much leeway or maybe even the players themselves aren’t communicating enough to their agent about what they really want or are what they are really striving for. I’m upfront with him. I’ve made it clear already what I want as a player and what I want for my family and he’s understanding that. I feel like he’s been tackling that goal ever since I’ve been with him.”
Yes, Rendon remains open to extension talks. Yes, they can go into the season. No, they can not dominate once it starts. Rendon hasn’t set Opening Day as a firm deadline for the conversations to close. However, he also doesn’t want to be bombarded during the year with twists and turns of the negotiation. He’s directly involved. Which doesn’t mean he will worry, but does he mean if the process becomes a distraction, he’ll close it down.
“I hope that the discussions don’t get more in-depth during the season because obviously the season and the games are going to be first priority,” Rendon said.
Outside of baseball, pieces of Rendon’s public armor fall off when the topic is his beloved Houston Rockets or 6-month-old daughter, Emma. She arrived late last season, sending a jolt through Rendon’s life in the midst of a wobbling team season. Quickly, pre-birth advice turned out to be actual truths. Friends informed Rendon he would have to relinquish all selfishness now that he was a parent. He nodded along at first, then lived out the situation immediately after his daughter arrived.
His time and Emma were more available to him in the offseason. Instead of stopping somewhere on the way home, he headed straight back to see her. He’s conscious of the amount of time he spends on his phone while holding her -- shiny objects get her attention -- as well as what he says and does in front of her. He read about childhood retention levels between the first day and 10 years old. The idea sticks in his mind.
“It’s only been six months since she arrived,” Rendon said. “But over the last six months, it’s the crazy thing of them growing a personality or following you around the room. They’re watching you now to see how you carry yourself.
“It’s our responsibility to take care of them and be the best example of who we want them to be when they grow up.”
Rendon claims baseball could go away tomorrow, and he would just move on. His parents provided a stable but far from luxurious upbringing. Simplistic toilings around his Houston neighborhood are among his favorite memories. No press, no stadiums, no one trying to define him as different. He’s an emphatic Rockets fan. Does his daily work. Goes home to see Emma and his wife when done. Will listen if someone offers a raise. What’s different about that? To him, nothing.
“If this game is taken away from me at any time, I'd be fine going back to the house and living a happy life,” Rendon said.” If that happens, it happens. I'm going to play as long as I can, but my identity is not in this game. This game doesn't define who I am as a person.”
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