DENVER — The past two months of Tim Anderson’s life have been much more difficult than he ever could have imagined. It’s a complete turnaround from the previous two months when Anderson was riding high after he signed a six-year contract extension in spring training.
But everything ground to a halt for the White Sox shortstop on May 7 when he learned of the shooting death of one of his closest friends, Branden Moss.
Anderson, 24, had never before experienced the death of someone close. He’d never had to handle the series of wide-ranging emotions one experiences when a loved one passes.
On the field, the second-year player had never experienced struggles similar to what he has in the first half. He’d never gone more than a few days as a professional athlete without something going right. Dealing with the two matters simultaneously has been difficult for Anderson, who said this weekend he hasn’t played like he knows how. While he’s coped as best as possible, Anderson — whose solo home run Saturday lifted the White Sox to a 5-4 victory at the Colorado Rockies — admits he still hasn’t mastered the art of detaching from the emotions of his personal life when he steps onto the field. Anderson thinks he can only grow from what he’s endured and already has.
But that hasn’t made the reality of the situation any easier.
“It’s definitely not easy to separate,” Anderson said. “Baseball doesn’t stop. I lost my friend, but I’m right back in it. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t slow down. It doesn’t stop for anyone.
“For me to go through those times was a learning experience and a maturing experience.
“I feel like I’ve been growing off the field as I’ve been going through these times. On the field, things happen. There’s going to be good years and bad years. I’m learning and continuing to put in work.”
Anderson hasn’t played up to his own standards in the first half. The 2013 first-round draft pick entered Sunday’s first-half finale hitting .243/.266/.372 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs. His 19 errors are also the most in the majors. A year after he produced 6 Defensive Runs Saved and 6.3 Ultimate Zone Rating, according to fangraphs.com, those figures have dropped to minus-6 DRS and a minus-9.9 UZR. Anderson has also produced minus-0.7 f-Wins Above Replacement.
“I’m definitely not where I want to be,” Anderson said. “Feel like I’m a whole lot better than what I’ve been playing like. Not to put it on anything, but it has been tough for me. I’ve kind of been dragging things off the field on the field with me. I’ve been showing frustration. It has been up and down. This has been one of the toughest times of my life. But I feel like I’m learning and getting better each and every day.”
Teammate Todd Frazier sees the difference. He’s been next to Anderson’s side on the field since he arrived in the majors last June. The veteran third baseman has seen Anderson’s frustration surface more often than it did during his carefree 2016 rookie season. Frazier isn’t surprised his young teammate has struggled given what he’s experienced.
“Once you play baseball and you get up here, you understand you’ve got to try and separate the two, which is very hard to do,” Frazier said. “You can have family problems, death in the family, a little argument, anything. It’s very tough to separate. But you get with your second family and you have to find a way to separate. For him, it’s been hard. I can see it. I can see it in his face and the way he goes about himself. He works hard. But for some it’s just a little harder to get by during the days and I think he’s still trying to figure it out.”
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Anderson said the entire experience after Moss was murdered has been eye-opening. He took three days off to attend his friend’s funeral and the White Sox allotted him another game after he returned to get back up to speed. Anderson’s family has offered him a strong support system since Moss died. But even that can’t replace the loss of someone who Anderson grew up with and had learned to trust with almost anything.
“Someone so close to you — for me to lose him was real tough,” Anderson said. “That was someone talked to about personal things and even on field things. He was my outlet that I talked to about anything and everything.”
Anderson said none of his struggles are a byproduct of trying to do too much after he signed an extension that could pay him $50.5 million through 2024. The money may have changed his life, but Anderson doesn’t feel like he’s tried to play up to the deal to prove his value. Everything he’s endured is a combination of going through his first full season combined with handling the emotional rollercoaster after the death of Moss.
With that in mind, Anderson looks forward to the All-Star break. He’s headed back to Charlotte for a few days of relaxation with his wife, Bria, and daughter, Peyton. He plans to get away from baseball and unwind.
Nobody could blame him.
“It’s been one of the toughest times in my career having not really struggled through my career and losing someone close to me,” Anderson said. “It has been a learning experience and I feel that God hasn’t brought me this far to leave me. It definitely has been something learning experiences and some eye-opening things.
“On the field things is just really humbling. You’re going to go through things and it has really set me up to be great.
“I’m learning and dealing with it and hopefully it’s going to help me in the long run.”