WASHINGTON- While Matt Adams was finishing up in the press conference room at Nationals Park, the door swung open as a shoeless Anthony Rendon entered with a wry smile.
The Nationals third baseman immediately took a seat to wait for his turn to step up into the hot seat. Instead of opting to stand for a few more seconds before plopping into the plush chair at the podium, Rendon slouched down against the wall of the upper left corner of the room.
For those who have seen his colorful, and at times cantankerous, interactions with the media, this is typical of the third baseman. Rendon, who will enter unrestricted free agency after the season if he doesn’t reach a contract extension with the Nationals prior, joked at one point he would not attend the All-Star Game so he would not have to speak with the media.
Rendon showed off his All-Star caliber play Wednesday in the first of two games against the Colorado Rockies. His solo home run, a decisive blast in the seventh inning to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish, catapulted the Nationals to a record of 35-15 in their last 50 games.
His play on the field is worthy of attention.
But his comments during today’s press conference were just as noteworthy. Some might call them comedy gold.
Rendon knew his 21st home run of the season was gone off the bat. And it wasn’t just because of the eye test.
“I was told to try and aim towards left center,” Rendon said. “And I knew I had the launch angle.”
Next up was the comparison between him and Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. With Arenado inking an 8-year, $260 million extension to stay in Colorado for the foreseeable future, Rendon’s contract in free agency is likely to mirror what Arenado received.
When asked to describe the man at third base for Colorado, Rendon voiced his admiration with (a kind of) real word.
“Amazingness. He’s awesome. I mean, I don’t know what else you can say.”
However, when pressed on whether he was in awe of Arenado’s talent, Rendon set the record straight with a distinct response.
“I view it as I’m a baseball player and he’s a baseball player. That’s about it. I give credit where credit is due,” Rendon said. “If I see someone that is awesome or is an amazing player, I’m going to say he’s an amazing player. If he looks like he sucks, I’m going to say, 'Hey that guy sucks!'” Don’t make it anything more than what it wants to be. Stop digging!”
Rendon then doubled down on his last answer, explaining it’s nearly impossible to sustain high-level play throughout an entire season.
“We all suck. It’s a friggin’ 162-game season. You’re going to suck at times.”
Although it is common for players to have bad days, Rendon’s consistency is one of the attributes that sets him apart.
Coming into Wednesday’s doubleheader, Rendon ranks in the top 10 in the National League in doubles (28), average (.316), runs scored (71), OPS (1.002), on-base percentage (.399) and slugging percentage (.603). Not only that, his 3.8 Wins Above Replacement mark puts him second among NL third basemen -- which trails only Arenado.
Also, Rendon is good at knowing his body. It was news in early July when he elected not to attend the All-Star Game due to tightness in his left quad and hamstring.
Although it would have been his first appearance in the Midsummer Classic, Rendon is happy with his decision to rest.
“I think it was a great call by me… I feel a little refreshed for the second half,” Rendon said. “Strictly for the physical aspect. I’m running! You see me, I’m so fast! Statcast me!”
Now Rendon’s one stolen base this year won’t show off what he referred to as his blazing speed, but when running out a groundout today, Rendon hit 28.2 ft/sec when bolting down the first base line.
The MLB average is 27 ft/sec. Rendon’s average is 26.4 ft/sec.
It really is a unique sight to see when a media-adverse superstar steps up to the podium after a win for their team.
When that player is Anthony Rendon, you can bet on a press conference, even though brief, as one for the memory books.
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