CHICAGO — There's nothing really new that I can tell you about Tim Anderson, at least as far as telling you about how good he is and has been. You can look to any number of more traditional facts and figures that will show you these things from a statistical and analytical standpoint.
So to prep a bit for this piece, I was looking back at post draft write-ups from 2013 to try and get an idea as to what the scouts and media were saying about what to expect from the shortstop out of Tuscaloosa, Ala.
For the most part, the biggest knock on him were those questioning his ability to stick at shortstop. Most were predicting a move to center field before long. There were some concerns about how raw he was having picked up playing baseball later than some have traditionally entered the game.
Well, it's 2020; seven years after the White Sox drafted Anderson with the 17th overall pick the 2013 draft, and he's still at shortstop. He'd be the first to tell you that his defense hasn't exactly been stellar; Anderson can struggle with the most routine play in one inning, and come back making a play in the next inning that few in the game would even have a chance at.
While his first few seasons in the majors flashed some of that raw potential we had heard about, we also saw plenty of potential issues in his game, issues that a majority of young players have a hard time ever getting over.
In 2018, his second full season in the league, Anderson finished the year batting .240 with a .281 OBP, and had struck out in more than 26% of his at-bats. The doubters had plenty of material to work with, and as the Sox began accumulating more young talent in their farm system, some even were willing to reconsider the future of the shortstop position on the South Side of Chicago.
Then in 2019, everything changed.
Tim wasn't hitting enough in 2018? No problem.
Tim wasn't walking enough in 2018? Who cares?
Tim's defense has some issues? He'll work on it.
You don't like the way Tim plays the game? Tim doesn't care.
Most of you already know the end of this story, but Anderson responded to all of the doubters and questions by winning the batting title in 2019. He slashed his strikeout rate more than 6%, and while he only walked 15 times, you don't really have to take walks when you're batting .335.
Tim decided he was going to play the game the way he wanted to, traditionalists be damned.
In his first few years in the league, Tim struggled to find his identity in a league built on outdated traditions and a staggeringly low presence of African-American players. It's hard enough for young players to adjust to the major leagues, let alone trying to become individuals in a sport that traditionally promotes a "put your head down and play" mentality.
In 2019, Anderson decided he didn't need to try and be anything he wasn't.
The people who wrote those "unwritten" rules aren't relevant to the game anymore, at least culturally. So Tim decided he was going to be the first Tim Anderson, instead of the next anyone else.
When Tim found his identity, everything from his demeanor to his play changed. He was making baseball look fun, and not only that, he was looking really good doing it.
In 2020, Anderson has been so dangerous at the plate, it seems he only makes outs when he wants to make things interesting for opposing teams. There is nothing cooler than confidence and the results to back it up, and Tim has shown those results backing up his confidence time and time again.
Chicago is lucky to have Anderson, and quite frankly Major League Baseball is too, whether they know it or not.
I have loved baseball all my life, and that will never change. Baseball doesn't need to change to attract me, but it certainly needs to adapt to gain a younger audience. A younger audience won't tune in because games are shorter, starting a runner at second base in extra innings, or pitch clocks.
They will tune in for players, nay, a player, like Anderson.
Tim Anderson is unapologetically great. All sports, but specifically baseball, need to put these players front and center if they want to survive. When people criticize Anderson for flipping his bat, staring at dugouts or any number of other examples of him having fun playing the game, they are thinking about sports in the wrong context.
Pro sports are not your office job.
You think to yourself, "I mean, after locking down that big sale, I'm not flipping my stapler in excitement, so why should Tim be allowed to flip his bat when he hits a home run?"
Well, that would be because you work at an insurance agency, and Anderson plays shortstop for the Chicago White Sox.
Baseball is a game, a glorious one, but just a game. It is counterintuitive to continue the longstanding tradition in baseball of playing the game the "right way," whatever the hell that means.
If watching the way Anderson plays the game bothers you, you might have to ask yourself some tough questions about what you even want to get out of your sports fandom. It seems there are other factors at play if you get mad at players like Anderson, but that's for another column.
As long as Tim doesn't listen to you, me or anyone other than Tim Anderson about how he should play the game, he's going to be just fine.