One day, late in the season, when many Nationals were hunched over ballots voting for MLBPA end-of-season awards, Max Scherzer charged down the hall into the clubhouse.
“Anthony Rendon for Comeback Player of the Year!” Scherzer called to no one in particular, as he sometimes does, though that award is voted on by writers like the ones who stood nearby at the time.
Teammates like Scherzer have to make declarations like those, because Rendon certainly will not do so himself. But the player more uncomfortable talking about himself than anyone in the Nationals clubhouse could not avoid the spotlight after a standout offensive: Rendon did, indeed, win the National League Comeback Player of the Year, as voted on by MLB.com writers and announced Tuesday afternoon. Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello won the award in the American League.
Rendon quietly compiled one of the more impressive offensive seasons at one of the most potent positions in the National League. A season after he dipped into injury-induced irrelevance, he responded with 20 homers, drove in 85 runs, hit .270 and led all N.L. third baseman in doubles. Rendon also led the league’s third baseman with a .976 fielding percentage, and was named a Gold Glove finalist for his efforts.
The 26-year-old suffered a severe knee bruise and endured oblique and quadricep issues in 2015, all of which kept him out early in the 2015 season and hindered him from settling in late. A year after he won the 2014 Silver Slugger at third base, his numbers dipped due to injury, raising reasonable questions as to his long-term stature: Was he a one-year wonder?
This season, healthy and at his natural position from start to finish, Rendon flashed his first-round skill set. He ran well, fielded better, and showed what he can do with a few months of healthy at-bats under his belt: He hit .291 with an .866 OPS in the second half of the season. Rendon made $2.8 million for his bounce-back season, and will be eligible for arbitration — and likely, a sizeable raise — this winter.
He also took over as the main player liason to the Nationals Youth Academy, which he visits regularly. Rendon visits as part of scheduled events, and occasionally for unscheduled visits, too. Rendon took over that job from shortstop Ian Desmond, who signed with Texas last winter.
But as well-rounded as Rendon has been when healthy, his path to end-of-season awards like these is narrow: With Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Justin Turner and others playing third base around the league, recognition is well-earned for National League third baseman. As much as he would hate the attention, Rendon got some anyway, just like his teammates hoped he would.