Anthony Rendon is hitless with questionable motivation. Should Angels fans cheer him?


Los Angeles Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon (6) throws to first base for an out during the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Tuesday, April 2, 2024, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Luis Rengifo was an unequivocal upgrade at the top of the order for the Angels on Wednesday in Miami, beginning the game with a double. It marked the first hit by an Angels leadoff hitter this season, and it triggered a 10-2 victory.

Anthony Rendon batted leadoff the first five games and went 0 for 19. The oft-criticized, oft-injured third baseman had batted first only 35 times in 1,116 previous major league games, but new manager Ron Washington figured it was worth a shot.

Sticking with the plan will be a test of Washington’s patience. Earlier, he didn’t sound completely sold on his own idea.

“This game is all about adjustments. … If it works out, it works out,” he said. “If not, then we can change it up again.”

Read more: With Ohtani gone, how are the Angels? Baseball isn’t priority for Rendon. Trout may want out

Rendon, a 12-year veteran who enjoyed a scheduled day off Wednesday, is famously unexcitable. He was lauded for his seeming slow heart rate and composure in 2019 when he led the Washington Nationals to a World Series title.

Yet his heart has been questioned in Anaheim because he’s played in just 148 of a possible 486 games after signing a seven-year, $245-million contract with the Angels after that championship season.

Yes, he’s had injuries, but his motivation seems to ebb and flow. Rendon was excoriated six weeks ago for saying on a podcast that baseball has “never been a top priority for me. This is a job. I do this to make a living. My faith, my family come first before this job. So if those things come before it, I’m leaving.”

His slow start this season hasn’t exactly quieted critics, especially on social media. Rendon’s last hit came nine months ago, on July 3 against the San Diego Padres. His is the latest in a string of bad contracts doled out by the Angels, who haven’t won a playoff game since 2009 despite spending more than $1 billion on free agents, including $240 million to Albert Pujols, $125 million to Josh Hamilton, another half a billion in two contracts to Mike Trout and, of course, the $245 million to Rendon.

Batting leadoff appeared to be Washington’s way of getting Rendon engaged early in games and in the season. Rendon seemed on board.

Read more: Angels try to put their curse on waivers with Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout on the shelf

“I love it,” he said before the second game of the season. “I’m up for anything. I trust Wash. I trust this whole staff and anything that puts us in the best position to win. I’m all for it. I think we all are on the same page, all of our guys up and down the order.”

Others have delivered, the Angels winning four in a row after opening with two losses. They begin a homestand Friday night against the Boston Red Sox.

Some fans have suggested Rendon take a cue from the Philadelphia Phillies for incentive. Bryce Harper, a player whose motivation is never questioned, snapped a season-opening 0 for 11 skid by hitting three home runs in one game.

And Phillies fans recall that last season they gave a morale boost to high-salaried but slumping shortstop Trea Turner by giving him an unexpected standing ovation.

Read more: Charlie Sheen thrilled Angels All-Star closer Carlos Estévez made a name for himself

Turner promptly went on a tear and helped the Phillies to the brink of the World Series. Could Angels fans surprise Rendon with an ovation during his first at-bat in front of a home crowd this season?

The Angels-centric X account “Not Mickey Moniak” is giving it a try, posting: “Join us Friday, April 5, in giving Rendon a standing ovation during his first at-bat. Help us show our support for Rendon, and let him know we are behind him this season!”

Maybe Rendon would respond to a show of support — if one occurs. It’s incumbent upon him to show Angels fans he cares about performing and about winning.

Fans across town must be grateful Rendon made it clear as a free agent in 2019 that he didn’t want to play for the Dodgers. A team contingent traveled to Houston, Rendon’s hometown, for a meeting with him and emerged convinced they had no chance to sign him.

Why? Rendon didn’t want attention. In his mind, Dodger Stadium is too close to Hollywood. Anaheim was far enough away.

“In terms of just the way that we’ve heard about how the organization is, whether it’s the Hollywood lifestyle or whatnot, it just didn’t seem like it would be a fit for us as a family,” he said at the time. “Nothing against them as an organization. … But in the end it was what we thought was best for our family.

“When people think about California, they think of the straight Hollywood, that glamour lifestyle, whole bunch of flashes and so much paparazzi. But everyone just said it’s the complete opposite” in Orange County.

And Rendon has been the complete opposite of the player the Angels believed they signed. His contract runs through the 2026 season, ample time for him to flip the narrative again, leadoff or no leadoff.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.





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