MLB: Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs

Excusing Tim Anderson

Tim Anderson has been making headlines the last two days, which is surprising both because of his play this season and the kind of personality he’s displayed since he arrived in Chicago 14 months ago.

Anderson’s confrontation with Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman — the two exchanged words after Stroman struck Anderson out during Wednesday’s Toronto win, leading two a brief clearing of the benches — was the latest and most prominent example of the frustrating season for the 24 year old.

The White Sox showed faith in Anderson as a one of their young building blocks before the season, rewarding him with a six year, $25 million extension just 99 games into his big league career.

“It’s life-changing,” Anderson said. “For me to perform the way I did and for them to reward me the way they did, it’s such a blessing. Especially for someone like me, from where I come from, it’s really an honor for me to be able to do this.”

His life wound up changing in more ways than he could’ve imagined. In May, his childhood friend was shot and killed.

“We had a very close bond,” Anderson said of Moss. “He was very close to me, more so a brother. We’re talking seven years of a great relationship. He’s my baby’s God dad, I was his a daughter’s God dad. It was that type of bond.”

Amid the pressure of living up to a life changing contract and mourning the loss of a friend, Anderson has had a nightmarish season in Chicago, no matter your metric of choice. He’s hitting .232/.254/.347 with a TAv of .213. FRAA didn’t love him last year (-4.7) but he’s been worse in that regard as his -5.9 through Wednesday ranked worse than everyone but Jordy Mercer among shortstops who have received equal or more playing time. His 22 errors are seven more than any qualified fielder at any position in baseball. He’s striking out and walking at approximately the same rate as his rookie season, and his wRC+ (55) is lower than any season of Gordon Beckham’s career (just to give you a frame of reference). He’s been a below replacement level player overall (-0.7).

No matter how you chalk it up, it’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year for Anderson. The type of season that, if the White Sox were trying to win, would’ve almost certainly led to a demotion to Triple-A, coupled with approximately 8,000 “What’s wrong with Tim Anderson?” think pieces.

A year ago Anderson was the bright young star for the White Sox. He was the shiny new toy to enjoy, giving the White Sox something to be excited about beyond the continued brilliance of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Jose Abreu. This year, amid the constant trade chatter, plethora of newer, shinier toys littering the minor league affiliates, and surprising competence from the likes of Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia, and Yolmer Sanchez, Anderson’s struggles have gone seemingly unnoticed at times.

And that’s probably a good thing, honestly. Because both on and off the field, this has undoubtedly been the toughest year of Anderson’s life. But the talent is undoubtedly still there. And for what it’s worth, the organization seems to still believe in Anderson as an important piece of the next White Sox contender. As apparent as 2017’s struggles have been, one can still envision a future where he and Yoan Moncada are joined by some combination of the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Jake Burger, Blake Rutherford, and Zack Collins on the next competitive White Sox team.

“It’s been a tough year for Tim both on the field and off. I don’t think I’ve seen a player in my time with the club that’s been as affected by off-the-field occurrences as Timmy has this year,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Everything he’s had to deal with, both with the league adjusting to him and the off-the-field issues that he’s had to endure, has made it a tough year for him. But the talent is still there, we still think he’s going to continue to improve each year with more and more repetition and very much view him as being an important part of our future.”

Anderson’s future with the White Sox remains important, regardless of the amount of additional young talent the White Sox have brought in over the last year. He was never a finished product to begin with, and the flaws that made him a volatile prospect to begin with have never been more apparent.

His confrontation with the hot-tempered Stroman was eye-opening both for how random it seemed and because of Anderson’s normally reserved demeanor. If nothing else, it was a sign of him letting his frustrations with everything that’s happened to him this season boil over for the first time ever. 2017 has been rough, but given his level of talent and the White Sox confidence in him, he’s receiving something of a mulligan from an evaluation standpoint.

He has plenty of work to do, but we’re still a long ways away from writing off Tim Anderson.

Lead Photo Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

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4 comments on “Excusing Tim Anderson”

jdserafini

I’ve been a skeptic since day one, and to this point I haven’t seen any reason yet to change my opinion of Anderson.

Marty34

Agree with the mulligan his season been tough to watch though.

Russ

I hope this doesn’t sound like an excuse because that is not my intention. If Tim Anderson is struggling with the off-field issues as much as the media is mentioning it, the Sox should either suggest FMLA to him or, if Tim insists on playing while dealing with it, send him to Birmingham so he can at least be closer to his extended family especially on off days. If given time to properly grieve, people can overcome these losses in somewhat short order; but the body senses that it can’t recover until the grieving is complete. The guy just looks like he needs a mental health break and putting that off until October may not be the wisest way to handle it.

Players have a tendency to want to earn their pay and try very hard to prove it on a daily basis, but that is often counter-productive. But you need to give a young player three years to see if they can overcome sub-replacement production. Avi Garcia and Matt Davidson immediately spring to mind as players who seemed to figure something out after two consecutive awful seasons. Gordon Beckham never seemed to get over the hump, but he really seemed to falter right after he started getting paid bigger money. You see it with free agents, too.

So there is no reason to think Tim Anderson was going to be able to overcome an extended slump easily. He can fail in 2018 too and still keep his job. But if he’s not producing in 2019 his job will be in jeopardy right when his big paychecks kick in. Just remember that the same thing happened to Jedd Gyorko – he signed a big extension and immediately slumped for two years. San Diego panicked and traded him while eating some of the contract and he has been fine since.

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