One of White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s mantras for his young players is: Be confident but never comfortable. That leaves no room for complacency to seep in.
Even though he’s in his sixth year in the majors, shortstop Tim Anderson embodies that philosophy.
Since debuting in 2016, he has gone from a guy who can hit for some power but not for average to the 2019 batting champion and 2020 runner-up. And as he gains more experience in the majors, Anderson is going from making adjustments game by game to at-bat by at-bat.
For instance, in the White Sox’ 7-3 victory Saturday against the Indians, Anderson faced starter Triston McKenzie twice, with divergent results. McKenzie got Anderson to strike out with his fastball the first time, but in his second at-bat, Anderson clubbed another McKenzie fastball over the right-field wall for a grand slam.
Anderson said after the game that he adjusted his plan at the plate after the first at-bat, telling himself to look for the fastball again and time it up so he could connect the next time he saw it.
“I want to be the best, so I practice like it, and I think like it,” Anderson said. “Confidence is always at an all-time high. I never lose. A guy might strike me out, but I got myself out. He didn’t get me out.”
Or after an 0-for-4 night with four strikeouts last week against the Tigers, Anderson said he used a hard line drive that went foul as fuel for his next game. That day, he went 2-for-5 with an RBI. He’s confident enough to shrug off a bad night but never comfortable enough not to learn from it.
Ask Anderson’s manager and his teammates, and they love seeing what he can do on the field, whether it’s with his bat or his glove or on the bases. But maybe even more than that, they love his attitude and work ethic.
“You’re looking at a guy that has slowed the game down by just doing him, being him, being what he’s about,” right-hander Lance Lynn said.
La Russa likened having Anderson on his team to managing Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley from his time with the Athletics in the 1980s and ’90s.
“What Tim does is what they did,” La Russa said. “He’s competing, and he’s having fun competing.”
The comparisons don’t stop there for La Russa, either. During the Bulls’ heyday in the 1990s, La Russa would go to their games and had the opportunity to watch them practice from time to time. In Anderson’s work ethic and energy, La Russa sees things that remind him of Michael Jordan — namely, his vocal leadership and drive to keep becoming a better player.
“He’s the same every stinking, wonderful day,” La Russa said. “He brings effort, he brings a commitment to the practices, to the competition. And he does it because he enjoys competing.”
As a result, Anderson has the Sox remaining sure of themselves but never complacent.
That attitude might carry over into the game as a whole, too. Just a few years ago, Anderson called baseball boring, and rather than leave it at that, he has set out to change things. In the process, he has helped bring excitement to Sox baseball.
“When you come on the South Side, that’s the plan,” Anderson said. “We’re going to try to give you a show and go out and have fun with it. Make you want to come back and watch some more.”