Tim Anderson

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

Tim Anderson hoping to bounce back as one half of Chicago's new dynamic duo: 'We’re going to try to bring back like how Pippen and Jordan were'


Tim Anderson hoping to bounce back as one half of Chicago's new dynamic duo: 'We’re going to try to bring back like how Pippen and Jordan were'

There’s a new dynamic duo in town.

Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada don’t have the championship pedigree Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen built during their six championship seasons with the dynastic Bulls. But the White Sox middle infield of the future is already preparing for the day when the South Side rebuild yields a perennial contender.

“We’re going to try to bring back like how Pippen and Jordan were in Chicago,” Anderson said during last month’s SoxFest at the Hilton Chicago. “That’s the swag we’re going to go about things with this year.”

White Sox fans got a taste of what the future might bring last season, when Moncada was called up to the big leagues and teamed with Anderson in the middle of the infield.

But both players dealt with their struggles. Moncada slashed .100/.280/.250 in his first 13 games and still had a batting average under .200 midway through September.

Anderson’s struggles were well chronicled, as he spent the season dealing with the death of his best friend. As he dealt with the emotional effects, his numbers took a big dip from what they were during his rookie season in 2016. Last season, he slashed .257/.276/.402. His power numbers were up as he played in many more games — 17 homers and 56 RBIs — but he also led all of baseball in errors.

This offseason's solution? For Anderson, it was stepping away from the game and spending time with his family.

“For me to get away from baseball was definitely the best thing to happen,” Anderson said. “Kind of separated myself from that this offseason, spent more time with my family and taking care of what really matters. Now I’m in a better place, I’m excited about the season. I’m ready to get back out there to work.

“It was tough trying to play and go through tough times, so I feel like the time and having fun this offseason was definitely — I’m having fun in life, and I want to show it. I’m in a better place now and ready to get rolling.”

Hopes are still high for Anderson inside the White Sox organization, and fans should be nowhere near ready to move on from the 24-year-old who just completed his first full major league season. It’s easy sometimes to lose him in the constant stream of news about highly rated prospects still developing in the minors. Anderson’s status as an early arrival, before this rebuilding process got started, gives him a unique perspective as the rest of the future begins to make its way to the South Side.

“It’s good because they can pick my brain,” Anderson said. “I’m a great guy, I’m open, willing to talk, get along with everybody. It’s going to be fun to get these guys up and see what we can do.”

There’s still plenty of time left in the White Sox waiting game, but the middle infield of the future is already here. Predicting the levels of success that Jordan and Pippen reached would be pretty outlandish. But there’s no harm in trying to become Chicago’s next dynamic duo.

It’s a new season, so bring on the excitement.

“Just have fun,” Anderson said of his 2018 goals. “Get back to being that dominant player, an exciting player to watch. That’s the goal, to get back to having fun.”

Why you can believe in the White Sox in 2018


Why you can believe in the White Sox in 2018

Mark it down.

Jan. 28, 2018.

The day Nicky Delmonico planted the White Sox flag for the upcoming season, saying on the White Sox Talk Podcast, “We’re going to surprise the world.”

Surprise the world? What do you mean?

“We’re going to surprise everybody. That’s exactly what I mean,” Delmonico said emphatically. “I think that White Sox fans know it. I think we’re going to have a really exciting year.”

It’s the offseason, a time when every player on every team can basically say the same thing without much accountability. Who’s going to go back and check the quotes in eight months, anyway?

For this story, the hope is, we will have to dig them up at the end of September, because there might actually be some weight behind what Delmonico is saying.  

The White Sox are not going to win the World Series. They’re definitely a long shot to make the playoffs — though Dan Plesac of MLB Network was the first prominent believer in the White Sox, saying at the Winter Meetings that they could compete for a wild card.

For the record, Plesac grew up a White Sox fan. So did I.

But dig deeper into the White Sox 67-95 record last season, and there was a lot more going on than mere wins and losses.

Take last July and August. The White Sox were terrible. They traded away Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak, Melky Cabrera and Dan Jennings. They went a combined 17-34 in those two months. On Aug. 31, they were serious contenders for the worst record in baseball and the first pick in this year’s draft.

But when the dust settled in September, what happened?

The White Sox got better.

They went 15-14 and had their best month since April.

Truth be told, September can be a weird month. There are call-ups getting their first (and sometimes last) taste in the majors. Plus, there are contending teams resting players, which allows also-rans like the White Sox to pick up some cheap wins. So September success can sometimes be fool’s gold.

But manager Rick Renteria saw something different going on with his team that month.

“I think that our players who were with us through September learned a little bit about themselves,” Renteria said during last weekend's SoxFest festivities. “If everybody starts to really look at it, Tim Anderson started to rebound from some of the things he was going through at the time. (Yoan) Moncada started squaring up more pitches in the off-speed category that he was probably swinging through when he first arrived. Those were some of the adjustments we were hoping he was going to make.”

After slashing .105/.261/.263 in his first 12 games in July, Moncada rebounded with .276/.349/.469 and five HRs in September. As for Anderson, he closed the season with his hair on fire. He batted .327 with nine stolen bases in September. He also had 32 strikeouts and just one walk, but hey, you can’t have everything.

“I saw (the players) starting to come together (in September) and understand a lot of their particular roles, specifically the bullpen,” Renteria said.

Let’s get to that bullpen, which was a shambles after the trade deadline. They finished August with a 6.03 ERA, the worst in baseball. But come September, the rocky seas got a whole lot calmer. As a team, the bullpen had a 3.96 ERA that month, not great, but they finished in the middle of the pack in the majors. Look at things a little closer and you had left-handed rookie Aaron Bummer settle down and finish with an 0.96 ERA in September. Gregory Infante had his second straight sub-2.00 ERA month in a row (1.42). Juan Minaya closed the season with five scoreless innings and five consecutive saves.

In the starting rotation, Derek Holland and his 6.20 ERA were DFA’d on Sept. 5.

Mike Pelfrey was still used occasionally as a starter in September — with disastrous results, 17 runs in two starts — adding to the White Sox loss total. Both won’t be in the rotation in 2018.

But three pitchers who very likely will be on this year's starting staff were called up to the majors and did this in September:

— Carson Fulmer: 3-0, 1.64 ERA
— Lucas Giolito: 2-2, 2.23 ERA
— Reynaldo Lopez: 3-2, 4.10 ERA

This season, they’ll be mainly throwing to Welington Castillo, a big upgrade at the catching position from last season offensively and defensively. Castillo had a league-leading 44.4-percent caught-stealing rate in 2017. White Sox catchers were second-to-last at 18 percent. Castillo had the best pitch-framing statistics of his career. He also hit a career-high 20 home runs in only 365 plate appearances.

And sometime next season (possibly as early as May or June), the White Sox will likely bring up Michael Kopech, who has one of the best arms in minor league baseball. The rotation will be young but potentially really good.

The White Sox are stressing patience with their prospects, but if they can press the issue and check all the boxes, they could be promoted sooner rather than later.

“We have an eye on all of them. Some of the things we’ll talk to them about in spring training is to let them know, ‘Hey, we know you’re here,’” Renteria said. “You’re never too far away. Sometimes you think you’re from here to the moon and all of a sudden (a call up) happens and you’re surprised. We don’t want them to be surprised when they get to the big leagues. We want them to be ready and expect to get to the big leagues.”

Eloy Jimenez has only played 18 games at the Double-A level. He says he wants to make the big league club out of spring training. If that doesn’t happen (and let’s be honest, it won’t), he’ll settle for coming up, as he put it, in “the middle” of the season.

If that occurs, you’ll have two of the best minor league prospects in baseball joining a tenacious, cohesive club that follows the lead of their persistent manager.

“We’re not going to be someone that’s gonna let other clubs just walk all over. We took that approach last year,” Renteria said. “We’re not going to put ourselves in the position where we’re going to downplay where we’re at. We’re going to play to high expectations. That’s a fact.

“We want our guys to have fun. We want our guys to exude to the fans that are coming out every single day to play as consistent of baseball that they possibly can. I think we’re getting to that point where people are starting to trust that as a reality.”

After getting called up on August 1, Delmonico took this mindset and ran with it. He set a White Sox record, reaching base in the first 13 games of his major league career. In September, he hit walk-off home runs against the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels, two teams chasing a wild card. For a fan base starving for hope and excitement, the charismatic Delmonico quickly became one of the White Sox most popular players.

But beyond the baseball field, he noticed something really special going on inside the clubhouse that he believes will lead to more victories in 2018.

“I haven’t felt this comfortable in a locker room in I don’t know how long,” Delmonico said. “I think it has to do with up top, with everything going on in the front office all the way down to the clubhouse. I think everybody is on the same page. It’s really fun to come in and play for the White Sox everyday. Everyone is on board with what we have to do and what we want to do. The biggest thing is that we’re here to have fun and play hard. I think everybody has bought into those two things. If you do those two things, you play hard and have fun, you can do a lot of damage out on the field.”

After doing most of their dirty work with the rebuild last season, the White Sox are now starting to trend upward. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers are just beginning their teardowns. Expect some dark days ahead for those teams — and more wins for the South Siders.

How many more? That’s in the eye of the beholder. If they can stay healthy, an additional 10 to 15 wins seems possible. Delmonico obviously goes much further, predicting the White Sox are going to surprise the world.

Get ready, Earth.

Wherever you sit on the “White Sox in 2018” spectrum, it’s tough to deny the talent that has reached the majors and will continue to arrive in the future.

So go ahead, be a believer in the White Sox — even in 2018. They should be better, and better than most people think.

October baseball seems unlikely. But it’s February. It’s baseball. Anything is possible.