Thursday , April 18 2024

So what if baseball is just a job for Anthony Rendon?

With the NFL season in the rearview mirror, baseball is back. Spring Training is underway, and baseball reporters everywhere are desperate for something to write about.

Amidst the usual “best shape of his life” stories coming out of camps, oft-injured Los Angeles Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon couldn’t have picked a worse time to be brutally honest about what he does for a living.

Here’s what Rendon — who was quoted in 2014 as saying he doesn’t watch baseball because it’s “too long and boring” — told reporters, courtesy of The Athletic’s Sam Blum:

Let’s start with the fact that this isn’t the first time Rendon has stated that his faith and family come before baseball. Back in a 2018 interview, Rendon said, “​​I want to be known as the Christian baseball player. I’m still trying to grow into that. But at the end, I want to be more ‘Christian’ than ‘baseball player.’”

None of that raised any eyebrows at the time, though that probably had to do more with Rendon hitting .308 that season for the Washington Nationals than it did with people approving of his lifestyle choices. It’s much harder to argue that *insert pro sport* isn’t your top priority when your average has dropped to a paltry .236.

But to be fair to Rendon, he’s been hampered by injuries since the COVID-shortened 2020 season, including undergoing hip surgery in 2021, wrist surgery in 2022, and fracturing his shin last season. For what it’s worth, Angels’ manager Ron Washington said he has no issue with Rendon’s priorities.

“He was asked what was important and all he said was his family and faith,” Washington said. “He’s here. He’s getting there to take this journey with us through this 162-game baseball season. He wasn’t saying he doesn’t care about baseball. He’s here and fired up and ready to go.”

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So why then, the outrage from fans and sportswriters alike? Rendon doesn’t seem to have changed his attitude since his sweet-swinging days with the Nats, though having children has a way of taking your focus off of everything else in your life and refocusing it on the tiny, psychotic ankle-biters trying to put everything into their mouths. I’m old enough to recall when Aramis Ramirez told a magazine that he was dedicated entirely to his cockfighting roosters, and no one batted an eye at that being his priority.

But there’s more going on here, with Rendon, I think, than just fans being concerned about his injury history and quickly declining hitting stats.

Former A’s GM Billy Beane infamously said, “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball,” and he’s right. Despite America’s love for the NBA and flat-out addiction to the NFL, no other sport so readily conjures images of playing catch in the backyard, long, languorous days spent in the bleachers, and playing .500 with your neighbors in the lazy golden after-dinner light of summer. And as baseball’s aging fan base watches baseball fumble their children’s attention away, witnesses their interests turn to Madden and fantasy football instead of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, there’s a sense of panic. A sense that our children might never know the joys of a pickup game in the house with the biggest yard, of hotbox and ghost runners, of the sound of Vin Scully’s voice.

Everyone who loves baseball is romantic about it.

But baseball, for those who make a living at it, is a job. And because it’s a job so many fans dreamed of having as kids (and let’s be honest, The Rookie gave hope to a whole generation of 40-year-olds), we demand that those chosen few who are living out our dreams treat the sport with the same reverence we image we would, had the Baseball Gods deemed us worthy of a thunderbolt for an arm or a perfect swing designed to send balls looping into the outfield. But any job, no matter how hard you worked for it, how much you wanted it, how much you love it, is still a job. Baseball is no different.

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Sure, players get winters off, their offices are pastoral cathedrals, and they get paid millions to play a child’s game. But they still have to go (almost) every day from mid-February to September, in nagging injuries and in health, when things are going great and when they aren’t. They have bosses, performance expectations, long stretches away from their families, and, especially on days when things go south, a scrum of reporters standing around their lockers, waiting to ask them exactly why things went so poorly.

I’m not shedding any tears for baseball players, God knows most of us would switch places with them in a heartbeat if we could, but isn’t there room for someone to see their job, even if it’s playing baseball in the sunshine, as a … (gasp) job? And why is it that, in almost any other profession, saying one’s job is their top priority is thought of as cold, heartless, anti-family, and some kind of Cat’s Cradle tragedy, unless the person saying it is a pro-athlete? You’re supposed to say your family is a bigger priority than your job, unless your job is to entertain the masses. Then you’d better kick your wife to the curb during childbirth because we need your bat in the five-hole.

There’s also a fair bit of sexism at play here. I’m guessing Rendon wouldn’t be getting nearly this amount of blowback if he played in, say, the WNBA or NWSL. Personally, I bristle when I hear a woman with a great career say she “lives for her children,” because it erases her as a human being with things to contribute to the world entirely. But that’s an acceptable thing for a woman to say because, at the end of the day, we expect women to subjugate their priorities to their spouses and children. But not men and certainly not manly men who get dirty for a living. The irony that a lot of the online criticism being tossed Rendon’s way is coming from the “society’s problems stem from too many absent fathers!” crowd is not lost on me. So, here’s a dad who says he cares about his family more than baseball. Isn’t that what we want fathers to say? Aren’t dads supposed to be present and engaged and putting their children first?

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The issue with Redon has layers to it. He’s perceived by fans as prickly and he’s made it clear that talking to reporters is not his favorite thing. And frankly, there are a lot of situations where he could handle himself better, including reminding himself that “being a jerk to reporters trying to do their jobs” is not what Jesus would do. But the law of averages demands that while there are players like Sammy Sosa, who loved every single second he was on the diamond, there are also players like Rendon — who discover they can do something better than 99.9 percent of society and put up with it for a paycheck.

If it makes fans feel better, Rendon would probably rather be playing baseball than doing whatever the outrage brigade does for a living, sitting in a cubicle tweeting furiously about priorities in between Zoom calls. Or maybe he wouldn’t. But does it really matter?

El deporte es una actividad física que se realiza con el objetivo de mejorar la salud, la forma física y el bienestar. Puede involucrar competiciones individuales o en equipo, y se practica en una variedad de entornos, como canchas, campos, piscinas o gimnasios. El deporte no solo promueve la salud física, sino que también fomenta la camaradería, el espíritu de equipo y la superación personal. Además, es una fuente de entretenimiento y pasión para millones de personas en todo el mundo.

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