Tim Anderson never blinked, got rattled or succumbed to the pressure of an American League batting-title pursuit that was his to lose as the 2019 season made its way to the finish.
In fact, the 26-year-old White Sox shortstop looked the achievement — impressive for one who batted .240 last season and hit .335 this year — squarely in the eye and said, “no pressure.”
Right-hander Lucas Giolito, who got to know more about Anderson on a personal level this season, was impressed by how his teammate handled it. Giolito, who had a breakout season in his own right, watched Anderson hold his ground during spring training when free agent Manny Machado was thought to be a threat to his position. He saw Anderson win the AL Player of the Month award for April, shrug off a controversial bat-flip flap that resulted in a questionable suspension and then watched him bounce back stronger than ever from a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss most of July.
Anderson appeared unfazed by whatever got in his way.
“I could tell as it got closer and closer and as his average has rose higher and higher, his at-bats look more relaxed,” Giolito said.
Anderson entered the last day of the season with a .337 average and eight-point lead on the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu, and after both went hitless in their first two at-bats, manager Rick Renteria replaced Anderson with rookie Danny Mendick after he took his position in the fifth inning. It allowed Anderson to walk off to an ovation at Guaranteed Rate Field. When the scoreboard acknowledged the batting title during the sixth inning, Anderson stepped out of the dugout to a bigger ovation.
That’s when it finally hit Anderson, he said.
“It’s such a huge accomplishment,” he said. “I think of where I was when I first came here to where it is now, man. I just came in and continue to work and it’s such an unbelievable moment for me.”
Anderson made sure of becoming the third Sox player in history to win a title with a strong finish, riding a 13-game hitting streak (.377) before going 0-for-2 in each of his last two games.
Pressure? What pressure?
“Nah. I never feel pressure,” Anderson said.
“I don’t think he feels those types of things like other people do,” Giolito said. “He’s got his routine he does every day and he prepares to play the game the same way every day, with his style and swagger and having as much fun as he can.”
General manager Rick Hahn, who signed Anderson to a six-year, $25 million extension before the 2017 season, likes the swagger that was clearly missing while Anderson was -injured.
“If we had 26 guys playing the way Tim Anderson plays, we’d be thrilled,” Hahn said. “From a makeup standpoint, from an energy standpoint, from a will-to-win standpoint, you can’t ask for anything more. That coming with a little bit of flair and emotion on the field, that’s great. Fantastic. Give me 25 more guys like that.
“He should go into this offseason very proud of what he’s accomplished and at the same time knowing he’s also capable of doing even better.”
Anderson acknowledged his appreciation for the fans and said he hoped to help give them more than individual achievements in the near future.
“It’s huge, obviously, but I prefer to be playing for something I can share with the whole squad, which is playing for the World Series,” he said.
Anderson, who is active in charitable and community work with his wife, Bria, was also the Sox’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
“He is, if not a star now, a star in the -making,” Renteria said. “Everybody can recognize that as being real.”