It’s no secret how the division-rival Royals, to name one opponent, feel about White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
They think he talks too much. They think he celebrates too demonstratively. They think he disrespects the game.
And here’s what one of the Sox’ breakout stars of 2019 has to say about all that:
“They’re not on our team. I don’t care about their opinion. I love that. That’s having that competitiveness to the point where I don’t even like the other team. I want to beat them so bad that it goes beyond everything else. That just adds more to it. That just makes it more cool.”
Isn’t that just the quintessential Anderson quote? Gotta love the guy.
Except for one thing: It wasn’t Anderson who said those words. It was Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito. What got into Mr. Mild-Mannered himself? Well, Anderson did, much as he has gotten into all of the Sox.
Anderson — the guy who, unlike catcher James McCann, first baseman Jose Abreu and Giolito, didn’t make the All-Star team.
Anderson — who, in a cruel twist of fate, sprained an ankle last week and could be out until August.
Anderson — the hobbled non-All-Star who, despite those setbacks, is the clear first-half MVP on a Sox team that hit the halfway point at 39-42, an 11-game improvement over last season’s mark of 28-53 through 81 games.
That’s right: the clear MVP.
Giolito and McCann may have gaudier numbers. Among all Sox players, those two, as well as Yoan Moncada lead Anderson in WAR, an important and generally telling statistic.
But Anderson was hitting .317 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, 15 stolen bases and a 1.8 WAR — on pace for career highs across the board — when he got hurt. He ranked second in the league with nine three-hit games. He was the American League’s player of the month for March/April.
And more important than any of those things — more important, maybe, than all of them put together — is this: With his energy, enthusiasm and hard play, he has done more than anyone else to give the Sox an identity.
“[Anderson] has really influenced my thinking and the team’s thinking,” Giolito said. “I know the way he plays, guys on the other team hate it. But he plays for himself and for our team, and he does what he wants to do that makes him happy, and I’m happy — I think we’re all happy — because of it.
“Why not play with some flash, some flare? Why not have fun with it? It just gets everybody more excited, us in the dugout, the fans. ‘T.A.’ is the one driving us. He’s the man.”
What’s been missing from the Cubs since their wire-to-wire romp in 2016? A lifeless clubhouse in the first half of 2017 represented a team that just wasn’t fully up to the challenge yet mentally. A wayward bullpen gave way to a “broken” (Theo Epstein’s word) offense in 2018.
It could even be argued that the leadership of former veterans David Ross and Miguel Montero has never quite been replaced.
And add this to the list: The Cubs stink on the road, and not just this season. Their 16-24 mark entering Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh was depressingly similar to their 17-23 slog through 40 road games in 2017. Their record on the road last season was 21-19 — not a red flag, but hardly the stuff of a dominant team.
The ’16 Cubs won 25 of their first 40 away from Wrigley Field. The words “runaway train” come to mind.
• Andrew Shaw, do come in. How wonderful to see you again. Make yourself at home. How we’ve missed your tenacity, toughness and face-first style.
Now, please, try not to bleed on the new carpet.
• Gutted Raptors vs. rehabbed Bulls, best-of-seven series:
• U.S. women’s national soccer team vs. the U.S. men:
One is a step away from another World Cup title. The other is hoping and praying merely to make the next World Cup field.
One is so cool, so charismatic and so great, the rest of the world’s teams seethe with envy. The other beat Curacao 1-0 Sunday in something called the Gold Cup, and only your incredibly annoying cousin Simon — who wears frames with no lenses and soccer scarves in the summertime — noticed.
One has Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz. The other has friggin’ Earl.
What’s wrong with men’s soccer
in this country? Easy: Women aren’t playing it.