Ozzie Guillen had a famous saying about A.J. Pierzynski that you’ve probably heard before.
"If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."
It would be hard for any player to match Pierzynski’s reputation, who was (and continues to be) beloved in Chicago but was booed and despised in almost every other MLB city.
And yet, here comes Tim Anderson.
“When you play against him, you kind of want to fight him all the time,” White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel said Wednesday.
Keuchel has experience playing against Anderson and now he is teammates with him, seeing a different side of the White Sox shortshop that won the American League batting title last year.
“He’s definitely misunderstood,” Keuchel said.
Comparing Anderson to Pierzynski isn’t exactly apples to apples. Pierzynski’s reputation was a little more convoluted, while Anderson just likes to have fun with general disregard for baseball’s outdated “unwritten” rules. His bat flips catch the attention of much needed younger sports fans, yet also seem to trigger just as many old-school players around the league. Just ask Royals pitcher Brad Keller.
Keuchel now has the perspective of being on the same team as Anderson and he means well when he says the opposition wants to fight his new teammate.
“That's not necessarily a bad thing, because you see the passion he plays with, you see how much he loves the game,” Keuchel said. “It definitely gets under your skin, which can help him.”
The former Astros and Braves pitcher even had examples.
“I remember a few times where we'd be going over the scouting report and (the report said) you can go in this area if you're ahead of the count, or if you're behind in the count, you can go in this area,” Keuchel said. “And then all the sudden I'm going in those areas and he's pulling a groundball double down the line and I'm just dumbfounded. But now I see where he's at. His mindset, the way he's trying to be more knowledgeable about the game about his at-bats.”
The White Sox hope Anderson picks up where he left off last season, and he’s showing early signs of that, even delivering a signature bat flip – er, throw – in an intrasquad game. But at this point, Anderson has earned the right to flip, even if opposing pitchers hate it.
“That's where you get the true professional,” Keuchel said. “You put the talent with the mindset and the knowledge to get better and you're sitting pretty, you're sitting with a batting title, you're sitting with respect around the league. I think he's going to be a force to reckon with and someone who some of the younger guys can even learn from.”