During the 2019-20 offseason, the big-spending Los Angeles Dodgers appeared to "miss out" on their two top free agent targets. They were in the midst of a "down period" (or, at least, what qualifies as one under Andrew Friedman). After back-to-back World Series losses and without a title since 1988, they aimed to reload following a shocking NLDS upset at the hands of the Washington Nationals.
First, they chased right-hander Gerrit Cole, hoping he would take less money to spurn the Yankees. Ultimately, that did not happen, and Cole inked up with his boyhood favorite team on a deal no one could scoff at.
Fine. No one expected Cole to be able to resist the call of the Yankees. It was what it was. Things took a decidedly more surprising turn, though, when Anthony Rendon, World Series ring in hand, picked the other team in the Cole chase instead, joining the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim while the Dodgers came away with ... well, nobody, and then nobody, and then nobody, and then Mookie Betts and a championship.
It's a long and strange story. The world shut down, then reopened slightly, then the Dodgers won a title, leaving the 2019-20 offseason far in the rearview. It's back in focus this week, though, because of Rendon, who is having his biggest individual disaster season in an Angels career full of them, and appears to be surrendering midway through an injury rehab, darting and dashing in secret across the clubhouse like a Disappointing Zorro.
But his recent bizarre -- and negligent -- behavior during the rehab process isn't the first time he came off alien in front of a microphone.
Dodgers should be glad they didn't convince Anthony Rendon to join organization
Rendon could've been a Dodger, of course, and it was seen as shocking, at the time, that he opted not to join what Friedman was building. In the wake of his free agent choice in '19, Rendon spoke oddly about LA's "Hollywood" lifestyle being a deterrent, then moved about an hour away from Hollywood anyway.
"Rendon, speaking during his introductory news conference on Saturday, spoke highly of the Dodgers organizationally but said from the podium that the Hollywood lifesty of L.A. didn't seem like it would be a fit for us as a family. Later, in a smaller scrum, Rendon, who was born and raised in Houston, was asked about his general hesitancy toward the state of California at the onset of the offseason, and he joked about the high tax rate.- Anthony Rendon
'I just think environment itself,' Rendon continued. 'I think when people think about California, they think about straight Hollywood, that Hollywood glamour, whole bunch of flashes, so much paparazzi. But everyone said it's just the complete opposite here.'"
Rendon was always trying to rationalize following the money to Anaheim when he refused to entertain doing the same with the Dodgers, a far more trusted organization by the rest of MLB's standards. He was always trying to fit himself into a state he didn't want to belong in.
And now? Who knows how it unraveled, but the process probably began before Rendon even signed his Angels contract, based on the way he spoke about the California "lifestyle" he was about to opt into.
Outside of 2020, Rendon has now played 58, 47, and 43 games in his past three full seasons. He's tied to Anaheim for three more, and appears to have very little interest in seeing those years out. The last time he showed tenacity on the diamond was while threatening to fight a fan in the stands in Oakland. Rendon has, by and large, ended his own career.
And it all comes back to a decision he instantly regretted in 2019. It seems likely he would've had the same regrets on the Dodgers, who moved on almost instantly and prospered because of it.