When Anthony Rendon came into view, he was already clutching the fan’s shirt.
In this case, the lack of context doesn’t matter.
Rendon is an idiot.
Short of him preventing someone from being assaulted, nothing would excuse what he was recorded doing.
Rendon was shown reaching up to the seats perched above the walkway that connects the visitor’s dugout to the clubhouse, his balled-up left hand holding a fan by the front of his shirt.
“What did you say?” Rendon said. “Yeah, you called me a b—, huh?”
“It wasn’t me,” the fan said.
“Yeah, you did,” Rendon replied.
At some point, Rendon released the fan, and swung an open palm at his head, perhaps at the brim of his Athletics cap.
“Get the f— out of here,” Rendon barked.
Rendon’s slap missed its intended target. He couldn’t hit a civilian; no wonder he went hitless in the game with two strikeouts.
Already, Rendon was the Angels’ $245-million money suck, spending the majority of the last two seasons on the injured list while taking up about a fifth of the team’s payroll. He became something worse Thursday night, a baseball player without any perspective, a selfish millionaire who placed his childish needs for retribution above the organization’s well-being.
This is a player the Angels are counting on as much as they are Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout. Good luck to them with that.
Rendon is now under investigation by the commissioner’s office and will deserve the suspension he is likely to receive. He is also under investigation by the Oakland Police Department and will deserve whatever comes of that. (OPD said no victim has come forward.)
To be clear, the fan deserved worse than what he got, provided he said what Rendon accused him of saying. A grown man can’t call another grown man certain names and expect nothing to happen.
That doesn’t mean it was Rendon’s place to administer justice.
Receiving verbal abuse is part of a professional athlete’s job, especially on the road. There’s no inherent value in hitting a baseball. What makes that particular skill valuable is that people care about it. They care enough to spend hundreds of dollars to buy tickets and hundreds more on merchandise. They care enough to develop a love of certain players and hatred of others.
The emotions projected onto the game and its players are why Anthony Rendon will earn $38 million this year.
Rendon doesn’t have to be here if he doesn’t want to. He has the choice of walking away and playing for free in a Sunday beer league in which people won’t call him names.
He is 32. He’s in his 11th year in the major leagues. He should know better.
He doesn’t. The Angels had a day off Friday, but the fact that he didn’t want to address the situation until their series against the Athletics resumed the next day speaks to how he doesn’t appreciate the gravity of his actions.
Rendon’s agent, Scott Boras, pointed to how every other stadium has tunnels leading from the dugouts to the clubhouses, sparing players the sometimes-unpleasant business of walking by fans after games.
“Major League Baseball needs to address stadium security,” Boras said. “This is the only stadium in Major League Baseball where fans have access to players after games.”
Still, that’s no excuse for Rendon’s behavior. Rendon crossed a line that can’t be crossed.
Say what you want about Arte Moreno, but the unpopular Angels owner has been consistent in his demands for how players comport themselves. Moreno made efforts to hold accountable Gary Matthews Jr. and Josh Hamilton, Matthews for reports that he received shipments of human growth hormone and Hamilton for a drug relapse.
Once the league disciplines Rendon, it would be in Moreno’s best interest to issue a statement denouncing his conduct. The culture of an organization is defined by its owner.
In the meantime, the Angels have to wonder if Rendon is not only broken physically but also broken mentally. In the 2-1 defeat on opening night, he stranded two runners in the fourth inning and two more in the eighth.
With Rendon, the assumption was always that he would produce so long as he could remain on the field. His extreme reaction to being jeered should raise questions about what’s suddenly made him so sensitive. Is he starting to question whether he can deliver?
Rendon is healthy but nonetheless figures to miss even more games, this time to his second suspension in as many years. Last year, he was hit with a five-game ban for participating in a brawl against the Mariners while on the injured list.
When Rendon signed with the Angels before the 2020 season, he explained that he chose them over the Dodgers in part because of his concerns about “the Hollywood lifestyle.” Ironically, his major lapse in judgment brought Hollywood to him, the story of his run-in with the Oakland fan featured prominently on celebrity gossip site TMZ.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.