He hasn’t even played a quarter of a normal season in 2020.
There. I said it for you.
Some of us are convinced anyway: White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson is a straight-up superstar. He just might be the best baseball player on either side of town. Want to argue for Cubs shortstop Javy Baez or pitcher Yu Darvish, Sox first baseman Jose Abreu or another of Anderson’s teammates? Knock yourself out. Anderson isn’t listening.
“Man, let me tell you, there’s nobody better than me,” he said. “There’s nobody who can stop me. I’m coming for whatever there is.”
But let’s back up. Anderson said those words on a lazy morning at spring training in Glendale, Arizona, before the coronavirus pandemic put the season in a deep freeze. And he was putting himself specifically in the context of major-league shortstops, not Chicago’s ballplayers.
The sentiment behind his words, though, was strong and unmistakable. He doesn’t think of himself as merely one of the best.
“I am the best,” he said, with dramatic emphasis on the second word.
And what has he done since then? Hit a tops-in-baseball .369 (entering Tuesday) in pursuit of what would be a second straight batting title. Hall of Famers Luke Appling and Frank Thomas are the Sox’ only other American League batting champions, but neither pulled off two straight. Anderson, who led the majors at .335 in 2019, has a chance to become the first player to lead both leagues in hitting back-to-back since Colorado’s Larry Walker did it in 1998 and ’99, and the first AL player to do so since Boston’s Wade Boggs in 1985 and ’86.
In 2018, Anderson hit a measly .240. The following spring, relaxing at Camelback Ranch after practice, he was honest about his intentions.
“I’m expecting to have a career year,” he said.
And that he did. During the 2019 finale, Anderson, who’d been pulled from the game in the fifth inning to bask in the appreciation of the crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field — and, yes, to protect his leads over the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu and the Brewers’ Christian Yelich — sat alone in the clubhouse in thought.
Thought 1: Nobody would’ve believed I’d do this.
Thought 2: Wait till they see what I do for an encore.
And he’s doing it. Anderson leads the Sox, even MVP candidate Abreu, in OPS (.994) and offensive WAR (2.2). He had nine multihit games — including a four-hit game and a trio of three-hit games — over the Sox’ 13 games in September as they surged into first place. Like Abreu, Anderson should be in the mix for MVP. To watch the Sox is to know that he, more than anyone else, makes their pedal-to-the-metal offense go.
Not that MLB Network’s annual Top 100 player rankings particularly matter, but Anderson is sure to vault up the 2021 list after slotting in at 95th overall — and 13th among shortstops — heading into this season. Those rankings already are painfully out of date.
Anderson is in his finest hour yet. Must we amend that to “quarter-hour”? Fine, but the fact stands: He’s a superstar. If you haven’t fully wrapped your head around that yet, don’t worry. You will soon.
The punishment Tuesday was severe — but right on the money — for Dan McNeil, the longtime sports-talk host fired by The Score after his troglodytic tweet about ESPN’s Maria Taylor in which he asked if she was an “NFL sideline reporter or a host for the AVN annual awards presentation?”
It was an adult-video crack, people. Not to mention wildly, stupidly sexist and degrading.
What’s not to respect about Taylor? She was an outstanding two-sport athlete at Georgia. She has put her imprint on ESPN’s coverage of one major sport after another, and in an array of roles from sideline reporter to studio host.
The Score apologized to Taylor in an official statement, calling McNeil’s tweet “unacceptable.” You know what would make that really count? Putting a more diverse collection of voices on the air, starting with McNeil’s replacement.
† There will never be a satisfactory explanation for what Broncos coach Vic Fangio did Monday in a 16-14 loss to the Titans, and that’s go home to bed with two timeouts in his pocket. There was nothing complicated about it: The Broncos could’ve gotten the ball back with a minute or more on the clock, needing only a field goal to win it, but instead ran out of time in their own territory.
Some guys simply were put on this earth to be coordinators.
† I can’t be the only one who asked aloud while Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski was missing three field goals and an extra point in that same game, “Why isn’t he a Bear again?”
† The best thing about Mitch Trubisky’s terrible-turned-terrific performance in Week 1? The Bears are 1-0.
Other than that, wake me when they’ve played somebody.
† More Jim Deshaies. Less Ryan Dempster. No Mark Grace.
No charge for the advice, Marquee.