MLB.com Columnist

Mark Feinsand

Under-the-radar Rendon enjoying anonymity

Under-the-radar Rendon enjoying anonymity

Scan the crowd during an average day at Nationals Park and the jerseys of Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer fill the majority of the ballpark's blue seats.

Anthony Rendon's No. 6? A handful of the third baseman's jerseys dot the stands, though they're few and far between. Rendon, one of the game's best all-around players, isn't offended by the lack of recognition. To the contrary, he seems to cherish it.

"As long as I have the respect of my peers -- the people I play against and my teammates," Rendon said. "That's all I need."

Rendon wins Heart and Hustle

Of course, if Rendon continues his National League Most Valuable Award-caliber play in the NL Division Series -- in which his Nationals appear likely to square off against the defending-champion Cubs -- his profile could see a major boost, particularly if he can help the Nats win their first postseason series since moving to Washington in 2005.

In an age when social media helps define a player's personality as much as his performance on the field, Rendon is a relic of sorts. He didn't create a Twitter account until September 2015, and in the two years since he joined, he's tweeted a total of 62 times.

When his hometown of Houston was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey in late August, Rendon took to Twitter with teammate Matt Albers (another Houston native) to launch a fundraising campaign, breaking an online absence of nearly eight months with his public plea for help.

Rendon and Albers set out with a goal of raising $50,000; they surpassed that in less than 24 hours, ultimately bringing in $135,000 that was sent directly to the Houston Food Bank and a number of other local organizations assisting those in need of food and shelter.

Rendon pays homage to Houston

"It's definitely tough seeing your city be devastated," said Rendon, who also attended Rice University in Houston. "People always give it the most attention when it's actually happening, but then they're not around for all of the relief and all of the rebuilding. There's another hurricane, there are other things going on, so people forget about what's going on.

"They're going to be rebuilding for months. I've been hearing about it, but I'm going to be going back home after the season and I'll be trying to help people rebuild."

For Rendon, an extremely private man who would be content to never speak to a reporter or put himself out there on social media, the prospect of helping his hometown proved more important than his self-imposed Twitter silence.

"I probably tweet one or two things a year," Rendon said. "Some guys use it for publicity. … I'm not going to put myself out there. People get mad when [outsiders] come in your life, but you're on social media telling everybody about your life. If you're putting your business out there, why are you getting mad at someone who has a comment about it?"

Unlike his more celebrated teammates, Rendon is content to fly under the radar, even if the lack of recognition means not getting selected to the All-Star Game (he wasn't part of the NL squad this summer, despite a stellar first half).

Rendon's smooth play

"I do not want to be the center of attention," Rendon said. "I think it's just the way I was raised; the way my parents were."

Though some consider 2017 his breakout campaign, this is not the first time Rendon has found himself in an MVP conversation; he finished fifth in the NL vote in 2014 with 21 home runs, an .824 OPS and a league-high 111 runs scored. Injuries cost him half of the 2015 season, and while he rebounded with a solid 2016 campaign that earned him NL Comeback Player of the Year Award honors, Rendon's 2017 -- which included an epic 6-for-6, three-homer, 10-RBI game that earned him an MLB Award nomination for Best Performance -- has been his best season by far.

Rendon's career day

Nationals manager Dusty Baker compliments Rendon's consistency at the plate and in the field, adding that his baserunning is an underappreciated aspect of his game. An old-school guy himself, the manager affectionately refers to Rendon as "a good RBI man," noting his knack for driving in runs in big spots.

"He picks up what the other guys leave out there -- a lot of times with two outs," Baker said. "You don't know how important that is, especially in the playoffs."

Rendon's RBI double

Rendon's mastery of the strike zone has been a key component to his success. He ranks fifth in the Majors in chase rate this season, swinging at only 19.7 percent of pitches out of the strike zone, while his 89.7-percent contact rate with two strikes is the best in baseball. Thats' helped him draw 81 walks while striking out only 81 times, an almost unheard-of ratio in this strikeout-heavy era. As a result, he has a .300/.401/.532 line with a career-high 24 homers.

Five years into his career, Rendon seems to have finally come to grips with how the league wants to pitch to him, as well as the fame that accompanies his chosen profession. He might prefer a life of anonymity, but that's nearly impossible for a star player to have in this day and age.

"You have to realize the good is going to come with the bad and the bad is going to come with the good," Rendon said. "I play a sport at the highest level, so you realize you're on TV every day and you're going to get noticed. I finally came to the realization that maybe I need to stop being selfish, open up a little bit more and just enjoy it -- but keep my core values still at hand."

Mark Feinsand, executive reporter for MLB.com, has covered the Yankees and MLB since 2001 for the New York Daily News and MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.