By Robert Dominguez
The end of the Bryce Harper era was hardly the baseball apocalypse most Washington Nationals fans feared when the former wunderkind and 2015 National League MVP walked to Philadelphia as a free agent at the start of the 2019 season.
His loss was the Nationals’ gain, as the emergence of bonafide star Juan Soto, the 20-year-old phenom from the Dominican Republic, more than made up for Harper’s defection to the the rival Phillies.
Yet it was Anthony Rendon, the Nats’ unheralded — until now — third baseman, who was the real driving force behind Washington’s underdog World Series win over the powerhouse Houston Astros after years of postseason futility.
Rendon, 29, a Houston, Texas native of Mexican descent, was named LatinoBaseball.com’s 2019 Player of the Year for stepping up and enjoying his best season yet. He led the team in most offensive categories — 34 HR (tied with Soto), a Major League-leading 130 RBI, a .319 average and an NL-best 44 doubles.
He played his usual stellar defense and was the toughest out in the NL, striking out only 86 times despite his power numbers and making contact 88% of the time. He also shined on the postseason stage, batting .328 with three home runs and 15 RBI as the Nationals won the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Rendon, who was third in MVP voting last season, also made the NL All-Star squad for the first time in his seven-year career and took home his second Silver Slugger Award.
Update: Unfortunately for Washington fans, Rendon is now the second marquee player to leave the team in two seasons. In December, he signed a seven-year, $245 million contract with the Los Angles Angels, where he will fit nicely into a lineup that boasts future Hall of Famers Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.”
Photo: Scott Ableman – Under Creative Commons License