White Sox’ Tim Anderson keeps head up by playing mind games with self

“You have to think, ‘I’m the greatest,’ ’’ Anderson said. “If I think anything less than that, then I’m beat.”

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The White Sox’ Tim Anderson signs autographs at spring training.

The White Sox’ Tim Anderson signs autographs at spring training.

AP

CINCINNATI — Tim Anderson had a bad day Thursday, coming off the bench on what was supposed to be a day off, twice failing to drive in the winning run from third and misplaying a ground ball for an error that led to the go-ahead run in a Twins victory.

He went 0-for-4 on Friday with three strikeouts against the Reds.

But if you think the White Sox’ All-Star shortstop is reeling or getting down on himself, think again.

“You have to keep a clear head and trick the brain into, ‘I’m the best to ever do it, the GOAT’ ’’ Anderson told the Sun-Times. “ ‘I’m the greatest, ain’t nobody better than me,’ that’s what you have to think because, I mean, it’s a tough sport. And if I think anything less than that, then I’m beat.”

The way Anderson looks at it, if he strikes out, it’s on him. But if he wins an at-bat, he gets the credit.

“So I’m always winning,” he says with a laugh. “It just looks like I lost, but I never lost. I’m a winner. It’s all about you play mind games with yourself.”

Anderson’s sprained left knee, suffered April 10 in Minnesota when the Sox botched a rundown and his knee got clipped near third base by Matt Wallner, could have gotten into his head. With MVP aspirations fueling him, he had worked feverishly in the offseason after playing in only 79 games in 2022 because of injuries.

“This game will test you on all angles,” Anderson said.

The everyday nature of baseball and its high percentage of failure can be burdensome even to the best. It also offers almost instant opportunity for success after one night’s sleep.

“Yeah, some days you’re going to suck. Cool,” Anderson said. “Try to come back and make it better the next day. That’s the great thing about this game. You have a chance to change the story the next day from being bad one day to being great.”

Get caught up in one day’s success, though, and you’re asking to get on the wrong track, Anderson said.

“And the next thing you know, you’re sucking for a week or two,” he said. “You definitely don’t want to get caught up in that or you’ll be sucking for three, four weeks. You need to have a short-term memory.”

Anderson doesn’t take a day for granted. In his eighth season and approaching his 30th birthday next month, he said he needs no motivation from outside sources to work at his craft and perform.

“This is the best gig in the house,” he said. “Come on, man, you see how much money people make playing this game? Who needs someone to push them to perform? That’s crazy. You should want to come here and be thankful for the moment. It’s only going to help you if you perform great.

“A lot of people get to know you, your jersey sells, you help your team win a championship, a lot of great things come with trying to be successful. Man, this is the best gig in the house. Every time I step between the lines, I know fans come to see me play. There’s a reason people like me, why they like how I play. Because I want you to see me play and go tell somebody they need to watch me. I’m very thankful for this opportunity.”

The sprained knee, which sidelined Anderson for three weeks, “drained” him. But he responded the only way he knows how.

“Keep pushing,” he said.

He owes it to fans, to himself and to the good fortune of his lofty lot in life.

“I’m high power,” he said. “Way above surface level. Surface level is what everybody is doing; only a select few are high power. Know what I mean? Gifted, spiritual, driven, that’s just what it is. I’ve accepted that. That’s where we’re at.

“But it’s a good spot to be. The best seat in the house. They can’t mess with you when you’re in that seat.”

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