WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon heard the crowd chanting, and, honestly, it would have been hard not to. But he says he never spent much time considering it even as those chants grew increasingly loud as the season continued. Rendon heard it from sold-out crowds in the stands at Nationals Park
WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon heard the crowd chanting, and, honestly, it would have been hard not to. But he says he never spent much time considering it even as those chants grew increasingly loud as the season continued. Rendon heard it from sold-out crowds in the stands at Nationals Park and from his teammates in the clubhouse as they surrounded him and soaked him in champagne: “M-V-P, M-V-P.”
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Rendon put himself in the race for the National League Most Valuable Player Award with his breakout 2019 season, a career year that elevated him from perhaps baseball’s most underrated player to full-on superstar. But in the end, he could not unseat either of the two front-runners for the MVP Award, finishing in third place behind winner Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Christian Yelich of the Brewers. Still, Rendon finished higher than ever in the MVP voting, was a first-time finalist and even earned one first-place vote in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America balloting announced Thursday.
For years, Rendon had been one of the best all-around players in the NL. This season, he raised his game to an even higher level. Rendon posted a slash line of .319/.412/.598 for a 1.010 OPS, 34 home runs and 126 RBIs, all of which are career highs. He was worth 7.0 wins above replacement (fourth in the NL) and ranked third in the league with a 154 wRC+ (behind only Yelich and Bellinger). Rendon was named an All-Star for the first time and was a finalist for the Gold Glove Award at third base, although he lost out to Nolan Arenado.
And Rendon did this all with his contract with the Nationals expiring. He is now the best position player available in free agency, and his 2019 season could be the reason he will command a big payday.
It might also be impossible to overstate just how valuable Rendon was to the Nationals this season. The Nationals had a .614 winning percentage with Rendon in the lineup and a .438 winning percentage without him. He was third in the NL in win probability added, which measures win expectancy from one play to the next and credits a player based on how much their actions changed their team’s odds to win He ranked behind only Yelich and Bellinger. Rendon was a key reason why the Nationals bounced back from their 19-31 start.
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“I just think it’s a long season,” Rendon said Thursday night on MLB Network. “So no matter as a team if we started off slow or as personal stats we start off slow, everyone understands that it’s a long season. You’re not going to win a division, you’re not going to win personal stats, titles, whatever, in the first month of the season.
“You know you’re going to have 162 games. You’re going to have six months to play this game and playing every day is going to be a grind. So, you’ve got to focus on the next day and have short-term memory loss.”
Voting takes place before the postseason, but it’s worth noting how Rendon’s playoff numbers helped guide the Nationals to a World Series championship. He hit .328/.413/.590 with a 1.003 OPS in the postseason. He hit seven doubles and three homers, two of them coming crucial winner-take-all games -- a solo homer to spark a comeback against Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the NL Division Series and a solo homer in the seventh to break up Zack Greinke’s shutout in Game 7 of the World Series.
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When the pressure is on, Rendon is usually at his best.
“Calm myself down,” he said, answering a question about his approach with runners on base in clutch situations, “not get caught up in the moment or in the situation.
Not even when the crowd is busy chanting his name.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.