- - Wednesday, July 3, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

After playing at an All-Star level throughout his career, Anthony Rendon is finally an All-Star. But he might choose to stay home instead of participating in the All-Star Game.

No problem here if he does.

The Washington third baseman has been overlooked and underrated despite ranking 12th among major-league position players in Wins Above Replacement since his first full season in 2014. Fans have never rewarded him in the popular vote, hardly a surprise considering he draws attention to himself like the Miami Marlins draw fans to their ballpark. It’s harder to explain why he wasn’t named as an All-Star reserve before this season.

MLB’s silly rule that every club must be represented — baseball’s equivalent of participation awards — certainly hasn’t helped.

Yes, the recognition would be nice, as everyone wants to be respected by their peers. However, the four-day break has been wonderful to Rendon, a chance to escape the grind for rest, relaxation and recovery, far from adoring fans and inquisitive reporters with no requests for autographs, photos or interviews.



Earlier this season, Rendon said he’d “love to be an All-Star, but without going, if that’s possible.” He was half-joking and half-dead-serious.

Well, it’s quite possible. And if his preference is another minivacation opposed to his first Mid-Summer Classic, he should go for it, though his manager begs to differ.

“It’s fun,” manager Dave Martinez told reporters this week. “I think he needs to experience it and see what’s it like, go in there and play three or four innings, whatever he’s going to do, and go from there. If anybody deserves it, it’s him. He finally got selected, so I think he needs to go and enjoy it.”

I certainly understand the sentiment. For all Rendon knows, he actually might enjoy attending.

Then again, he’s absolutely positive that he’ll enjoy being elsewhere. And it’s not as if his presence or absence would have a major impact on the event.

According to some observers, players “owe it” to fans, and the sport, to participate in All-Star games and assorted sideshows like home run derbies, dunk contests, and skills competitions. Like-minded observers often say players “owe it” when fans ask for autographs, photos, waves, smiles, etc.

But Rendon isn’t obligated to do any of that. A true Washington Nationals fan couldn’t care less if Rendon prefers solitude to celebrity.

Let’s suppose Rendon vows to never attend an All-Star game, sign a baseball card or pose for a picture, but he continues be a top player. Would he elicit fewer cheers at Nationals Park (or his next stop)? Would fans be less elated after another game-winning homer or sterling defensive gem? Would he be more popular winning a Mr. Congeniality award or an MVP award?

I can hear the objections now: “But what if every player declined to play nice? What if all of them chose to not participate in All-Star events or grant fans’ requests? What would happen then?”

Here’s what would happen: All-Star games would stink, and less than 1/10 of 1% of a team’s total fan base would be upset.

Otherwise, no effect whatsoever.

We need not worry, though, because players are unlikely to become monolithic. Some enjoy the spotlight while others are more introverted. Some are more willing to fulfill presumed obligations, while others prefer sticking to actual obligations (play hard, take care of your body, stay out of trouble, be a good teammate, play hard). Some are yin while others are yang.

Major League Baseball allows players to skip the All-Star game for medical or personal reasons … which essentially means any excuse will do. Not that Rendon wants to go anyway, but he’s playing through minor injuries and that could factor into his decision.

“It’s a great honor and I’m very appreciative,” he told reporters this week. “But at the same time, I play for the Nationals. So I want to be at 100 %, or at least close to that, and keep putting myself in position every day to actually help my team.”

Playing for the National League won’t help the Nationals. Doffing his cap and standing on a baseline during player introductions won’t help the Nationals. Answering questions from assorted media members won’t help the Nationals.

If Rendon believes he’s better off skipping the festivities — even if he’s dead wrong and would rake at a hotter rate afterward — he should skip the event by all means. Fans in D.C. won’t love and appreciate him any less.

If MLB and other fans are mad, they’ll get over it.

Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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