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Angels infielder Anthony Rendon says baseball has "never been a top priority"

Anthony Rendon, who has been the subject of controversy several times in recent years, addressed where baseball ranks on his list of priorities while speaking with reporters at Spring Training.

"It's never been a top priority for me," the 33-year-old third baseman said on Monday. "This is a job. I do this to make a living. My faith, my family come first before this job. So if those things come before it, I'm leaving."

Los Angeles Angels v Texas Rangers
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JUNE 15: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Los Angeles Angels reacts after being hit by a pitch during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on June 15, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. Sam Hodde / Getty Images

Now a father of four, Rendon noted that his priorities have changed a lot since he was in his early 20s, when he was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. 

But even at that point in his career, he says that the game was not exactly the same passion for him that it is for others. 

"My enthusiasm has been the same since I got drafted to be honest with you," Rendon said, noting that he stumbled upon an email while he was clearing out his inbox recently. "I emailed myself a pros and cons of why I wanted to stay in the game. This was in 2014. My thought process of the game has not changed since then."

When asked if baseball was a priority for him at all? 

"Oh, it's a priority for sure," Rendon said. "Because it's my job. I'm here, aren't I?"

Related: Mike Trout talks Angels roster, says requesting trade would be "the easy way out"

It's not the first time that he's addressed his true feelings towards the game, once telling The Washington Post that he doesn't watch baseball because "it's too long and boring."

Prior to Monday's comments, Rendon made headlines in January when asked what one thing he could change about Major League Baseball would be during an appearance on the Jack Vita Show. He said that there are "too many dang games" and that the season needed to be shortened up from the current 162 games. 

As expected, his comments drew the ire of many fans and other personalities throughout the baseball world, and in the days following, former big leaguer and teammate Jonathan Papelbon took to X to offer his own thoughts on the topic. 

"Played with Rendon, and literally hates baseball," Papelbon's post said. "Yeah, it's long, isn't that what you signed up for??? Just tell the team you want to play half the season and give back half your salary!!!!!"

Rendon's name has been a somewhat contentious topic for Halos fans since he signed a 7-year, $245 million contract after the 2019 season, at which point he was considered by many to be one of the game's top players. 

"They don't know me," Rendon told The Athletic's Sam Blum. "They only know the surface area there. They're a fan, right? They might know that I'm six feet tall and 190 pounds, but they don't know who I am as an individual."

Rendon was involved in an altercation with a fan a game against the Oakland Athletics on Opening Day in 2023, with video showing him grabbing the fan by the shirt and shouting at him while the two exchanged words. The incident earned him a four-game suspension and was a hot button topic to start the season, eliciting strong reaction from fans. 

Since signing his deal, he's appeared in just under 37% of the potential games he could have with the Angels and has never had a season in which he's played in more than 58 games. This includes what was supposed to be a promising season in Anaheim in 2023, when he tallied just two homers and 22 RBIs in 43 games. 

Much of Rendon's struggles to stay on the field can be attributed a slew of injuries which have kept him from being the same player that was named to one All-Star Game and won two Silver Slugger Awards with the Washington Nationals, where he played seven seasons and won a World Series in 2019.

Seattle Mariners v. Los Angeles Angels
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 09: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Los Angeles Angels smiles during the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Friday, June 9, 2023 in Anaheim, California. Katelyn Mulcahy/MLB Photos via Getty Images

He also addressed the constant injuries that have mired the latter half of his career.

"You can't make everyone happy," he said. "You're damned if you do, damned if you don't. I don't want to have surgeries. You think I like going under the knife and being in pain the majority of my time? I can't pick up my kids. I can't walk. You think I enjoy that? I don't want to do that."

Last season, he often made quips when asked about his health issues by media members, most infamously his claim to not speak English in September as he dealt with a fractured tibia.

 "No habla Ingles today," he said at the time. 

Days later, when asked if he was considering hanging up his cleats, he said it's been a consideration for quite some time. 

"I've been contemplating it the last 10 years," he told reporters

Rendon stands to make $38 million in 2024, making him baseball's second-highest paid player. He says he's taking measures to hopefully see more playing time and says he's good to go to start the new campaign. 

As it stands, he appears to have the support of the Angels front office, with General Manager Perry Minasian telling reporters on Tuesday that he understands where Rendon is coming from. 

"For me, it's actions, right?" Minasian told MLB's Rhett Bollinger. "It's less about words and more about actions. Anthony is a good teammate. We've seen him play with some intensity and even when he's been on the IL, he's been there for his teammates. He knows the game. He enjoys playing the games. I believe he's in a really good place right now and expecting a big year from him."

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