Seated on stage last Friday during the live broadcast of “SoxFest at Night,” Tim Anderson could hear the chants coming from an excitable White Sox audience, seeing their beloved shortstop, looking to predict his MLB future.
“MVP! MVP!” they shouted.
For fans of the Bulls and a certain hometown hero, Anderson’s response that night had a familiar ring to it.
“Why not?” Anderson answered back, finding his inner Derrick Rose, who famously posed the same question at a press conference before the 2010-11 season. When Rose said it, few believed he was ready to win the NBA MVP that early in his career, but the 22-year-old backed up his words, winning the MVP award in a landslide over LeBron James and Dwight Howard.
Speaking with Anderson this week in an interview for NBC Sports Chicago, the White Sox star elaborated on his belief that he can win an MVP one day, as well as his connection to Rose, who has more in common with Anderson than you might think.
“It’s possible,” Anderson said about his chances of winning the AL MVP someday. “Nobody said I can win the batting title. I did. Why can’t that be in store for me? Why can’t I do that? All I’ve got to do is continue putting the work in and keep playing hard. The tools are there. It’s just up on me now. Am I saying it’s going to happen? I don’t know. Is it possible? Yeah. All I got to do is go out and play hard. We’ll see what happens.”
Anderson had never heard about Rose’s “Why not?” press conference until he saw a video mashing up his words with Rose's. They’re almost identical.
“Why not?”— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) January 25, 2020
In Chicago, that’s how MVP talk starts. pic.twitter.com/PKA6M8pobB
And it turns out that Rose and Anderson have more in common than just those two famous words.
“I feel his energy. I feel where he’s coming from, being counted out,” Anderson said about Rose. “Everybody doesn’t believe things can happen for you, but that’s when you really show it the most. A lot of people count you out.”
Anderson and Rose have never met, but they’ve exchanged text messages. Anderson has even invited Rose to a White Sox game to throw out a first pitch.
“He’s someone I definitely look up to,” Anderson said about the former Bulls star. “The things that he’s been through, from his leg injuries. I’ve kind of been in that situation, as well. I kind of know what that’s like.”
During his sophomore season in high school, Anderson injured both his knees playing basketball and almost quit sports entirely after suffering the second knee injury. Instead, he decided to try baseball, picking up the game for the first time as a junior in high school. Starting a sport like baseball that late is no easy feat. Ask Michael Jordan. Anderson has been playing catch up ever since. Considering almost every major leaguer has been playing baseball regularly since they were in elementary school or younger, it’s quite an accomplishment he’s actually made it this far.
But that hasn’t prevented Anderson from attempting to reach the potential he knows exists inside him, a voice that doesn’t listen to critics or skeptics, just like Rose.
“I know where (Rose) is coming from, being counted out numerous times. Instead he keeps bouncing back and bouncing back. I’m ready to work towards whatever’s in store for me and take it on head first without looking back.”
Before Anderson’s breakout season at the plate in 2019, there was an endless supply of critics who were against him. To their defense, the statistical data backed their case. In 2018, Anderson hit .240/.281/.406 with 149 strikeouts and an 87 OPS+ (a 100 OPS+ is league average). Would the White Sox 2013 first-round pick ever reach the lofty expectations that were placed at his feet on draft day? The doubters were growing in numbers.
But Anderson changed the narrative in a big way in 2019, not only stunning the baseball world by winning the AL batting title, but by turning himself into a household name with his culture-changing bat flips that captured the attention of the younger generation the game is trying to attract.
Defensively, Anderson has room to improve. His 26 errors were the most in baseball.
If you want to label him an inferior shortstop right now, go ahead, but consider the player we’re talking about here and the inner strength that only builds when people doubt him.
“I know how good I want to be, so I don’t really need someone to label me, to tell me how good I am or how good I can be, because that’s within myself,” Anderson said. “I don’t really like when people say, ‘He’s going to be this type of player.’ Anything can happen. Anything is possible. So that’s why I keep working and proving those people wrong.”
And if you think Anderson’s belief that he can win an MVP award one day is an unrealistic goal, he’s not stopping there.
He’s aiming higher. Much higher.“I want to be the best. You see those top athletes like LeBron and Michael Jordan and see the things that they did. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I be different in baseball? Why can’t I be different in this sport? Why can’t I be one of those guys? Just kind of have the same mentality that they did. Playing in Chicago, it’s a big city. I just try to go out and have fun with it and be the best player I can be.”