White Sox

Tim Anderson's hot start is about more than just batting average: 'He's a five-tool guy'

Tim Anderson's hot start is about more than just batting average: 'He's a five-tool guy'

Tim Anderson is leading baseball in batting average, his clip up to .453 after a three-hit night Monday on the South Side. He's hit in all seven games he's played at Guaranteed Rate Field this season, picking up multiple hits in six of them.

Updating Anderson's scorching start to the 2019 campaign is no breaking news to White Sox fans, who through their team's 6-9 beginning to the season have been laser focused on Anderson as the team's brightest spot. But as a good deal of attention goes toward that one stat — deservedly so, considering it's almost .030 points better than the second best hitter in baseball — other successes might be slipping past some fans and observers, things that point to an even brighter future for the White Sox and their starting shortstop than his Ted Williams style start at the plate.

"He's a five-tool guy. There's no way of looking beyond that, he's a five-tool guy," manager Rick Renteria said after Monday's win over the visiting Kansas City Royals. "He can hit for power, he can hit for average, he can field, he can throw, he can run."

Yes, Anderson can indeed do those things, and those skills without the bat in his hand were on display in Monday's victory. He hustled home from second on what was initially ruled an inning-ending double play but then overturned into a run-scoring fielder's choice. That tally was the White Sox first of the game and the beginning of the crawl out of a 3-0 hole. By the end of that fifth inning, the game was tied.

Anderson couldn't prevent Manny Banuelos from issuing a leadoff walk to Billy Hamilton in the seventh, and the Royals' speedster flew by Welington Castillo's errant throw at second base and scored the go-ahead run a few pitches later. Anderson did, though, corral a Castillo throw in the top of the eighth and make an artful tag on the foot of a would-be Kansas City base stealer. In the bottom of that eighth, he smoked a leadoff double off the left-field wall and was aboard when Castillo lifted the game-winning home run over the right-field fence, flipping a White Sox deficit into a White Sox lead that stuck.

Unsurprisingly, Anderson was at the center of the White Sox victory. He's been at the center of the last couple of those. You'll recall his grand slam Sunday afternoon in The Bronx while many of us sat shivering in Chicago. Monday, he heated the South Side up with an array of talents, the latest display of the work he constantly points to as the source of his power in this smoking-hot start to the season.

"It's very important," Anderson replied when asked how important it is for him to be a five-tool player. "I've been working since I got here. These guys feed off my energy, so it's my goal to show up and be ready every day and get this team going.

"I didn't think it was going to be like this. But I'm going to continue to work and try not to let that get to my head. Just block out all the noise and continue to be me and keep having fun, bring a lot of energy to this squad."

It wasn't too long ago that some of the same folks cheering on Anderson's successful start were trying to usher him out of the long-term picture on the South Side. Manny Machado was out there to be had, and importing a four-time All Star would be a premium addition at shortstop, even if that meant moving Anderson elsewhere — on the field or in the league. Anderson wasn't so sure. He told Our Chuck Garfien at SoxFest that while he'd like to play alongside Machado, "shortstop is mine."

"I don’t feel like I have to bow down to nobody. I don’t feel like I just have to give something up what I worked hard for. I would love to play with him, but shortstop is mine," Anderson said in January. "I came too far for these fans to kind of just want me to give it to Machado. I don’t think that’s right, but at the end of the day, I get it. I see both sides, so that’s why I’m here to try and win a championship. The White Sox have been nothing but good to me, so I give them nothing but respect by what they have going on."

To his credit, Anderson's defensive improvement at shortstop was one of the highlights of last year's 100-loss campaign, an improvement everyone, including infield coach Joe McEwing, attributed to Anderson's work.

"I kind of challenged him and said, 'I’m extremely proud of the progress you’ve made, let’s not stop, let’s not stop here, let’s take it to another level,'" McEwing said last year. "'You say you want to be the best. What does that entail, as far as work-wise, maturity-wise, leadership-wise?' I challenge him every day to be that leader, take over the infield, make sure everybody’s in the right spot, communicate constantly with each other. And he’s taken it to that level."

There were plenty of questions surrounding Anderson, independent of Machado, this offseason and during spring training. His defensive improvement was great, same with his 20 home runs and 26 stolen bases in 2018. But this was a guy who slashed just .240/.281/.406 last season. Was that enough to keep him entrenched as the no-doubt shortstop of the future?

There's a lot of 2019 left to go, and hot starts don't always equal season-long success. But so far, Anderson is proving folks wrong once again. Proving that people were wrong to be willing to brush him aside for Machado, wrong to doubt that he will be the shortstop on the next contending White Sox team.

"I kind of knew that off the rip, I was going to be the shortstop," Anderson said Monday night. "I've just been working and determined and confident. Just keep improving. I know how good I want to be, so I don't need nobody to motivate me. I motivate myself. I want to work hard and continue to be me."

Given the small sample sizes, that's the right idea: to keep working, to not be satisfied with just an electric start. Anderson wants an electric season. But everything we've seen from him so far in 2019 has gone toward answering those preseason questions.

Anderson is here. He's hitting. He's running. He's fielding. He's tagging. He's got five tools, and he's using them to prove everyone wrong.

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MLB rejects players' 114-game proposal, making 50-game season look possible

MLB rejects players' 114-game proposal, making 50-game season look possible

That 114-game season that the players’ union wanted?

Yeah, that’s not happening.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Major League Baseball rejected the union’s proposal for a 114-game schedule during which they would receive the full prorated salaries they agreed to in March.

Rosenthal also reported that the league does not plan to make a counter proposal, potentially lining things up for the 50-game season that was reported on earlier this week.


That same March agreement gave the league the authority to set a schedule for the 2020 season, a route the league could take if it cannot come to an agreement with the players.

And so the options for a shortened 2020 season, as presented by the owners, seem to be down to two, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman: an approximately 50-game season in which players receive their full prorated salaries, or an 82-game season in which players take another big pay cut, one the league has proposed will most dramatically impact its highest paid stars.


There might also be a third option, though it's not one any baseball fan wants to hear about.


RELATED: MLB could shrink season to 50 games if no deal reached with players

Team owners claim that the more games that are played without paying customers in the stands, the more money they lose, making it more difficult to pay the players the salaries they agreed to.

The players argue they haven’t seen sufficient reason to take another big pay cut and insist the owners, by refusing to open their books, have not shared enough proof of the losses they are forecasting.

It’s obvious that a season played without ticket sales and all the other sales that come from filling up stadiums with tens of thousands of people every day for six months would see a dramatic decline in revenue. But lucrative TV contracts would still mean revenue — and perhaps a lot of it, even if it pales in comparison to the record $10.7 billion Forbes reported the league took in last year.

The owners don't seem to think it would be anywhere close to enough to pay the players their full prorated salaries, though. They seem to have settled on the message that there is a certain amount of money they're capable of paying the players, and that if the players want it as part of full prorated salaries, they'll get it in only about 50 games, but if they want it over the course of 82 games, then it won't be a part of full prorated salaries.

While there are some health-related benefits to scattering 50 games over the course of three months, both pertaining to regular baseball stuff and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a 50-game schedule would rob fans of an awful lot of baseball. It could be argued that setting a playoff field — expected to expand from 10 teams to 14 — based off 50 games is an illegitimate way to crown a champion. It could be argued that the sprint of a shortened season would be a fascinating change of pace from baseball's typical marathon, which earns criticism for being, at times, glacially paced.

But the loss of roughly 110 games would be nothing compared to the loss of an entire season.

Any understanding over a season impeded by the coronavirus — not an impossibility, considering just one day after beginning exhibition play in Japan, two players tested positive — would be severely contrasted by the lack of sympathy stemming from a failed money fight.

So is it a league-mandated 50 games? A different, negotiated number of games? Or zero games?

Time will tell. But time is also of the essence if baseball wants to wrap up the postseason by the fall.

 

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Two baseball players in Japan test positive for coronavirus as Opening Day nears

Two baseball players in Japan test positive for coronavirus as Opening Day nears

One day.

That’s all it took for Nippon Professional Baseball, the top pro league in Japan, to experience its first positive tests for COVID-19.

Two players, including a reigning league MVP, tested positive just one day after the league started playing exhibition games. What happens next is unknown. Opening Day in Japan is set for June 19, just 16 days from now.

Major League Baseball doesn’t have a scheduled Opening Day at the moment, the league and players’ union trying to figure out how players will be paid in a shortened season team owners claim will have disastrous economic consequences.

But as the fiscal fight grabs headlines, the biggest question remains how a season can be safely played in the middle of a pandemic. While it sounds like money still has a greater chance to derail a 2020 season than the coronavirus does — still, though, national reporters seem sure there will be baseball played this year — the players, saving their comments on the matter until they could comment on the economic proposal, as well, said the two sides were apart on health and safety, too.

To MLB’s credit, the league is taking that issue seriously, sending 60-something pages’ worth of health-and-safety proposals to the players that included everything from testing to bans on in-game spitting and on-site showers.

But for as many details as there were, there were questions left unanswered. And now that positive tests have instantly come to pro baseball in Japan, those questions demand answers.

RELATED: Why reported MLB coronavirus testing plan raises some big red flags

MLB pitched a testing strategy that included players being tested multiple times a week, but not daily. Plus, the kinds of tests used for asymptomatic players would not deliver results for 24 hours.

Those two details combined seem to make for a situation in which an asymptomatic player could arrive at the ballpark, get tested, play a game and therefore interact with not only players from his own team but players from the opposing team, get on an airplane, travel to another city and arrive at another ballpark before knowing he tested positive, exposing many to the virus both at and away from the ballpark.

Even more worrisome was the league’s desire not to have a positive test result shut down a team, multiple teams or the league as a whole while recommended quarantining was practiced. Major League Baseball would not require teammates of a player who tests positive to quarantine, flaunting the contact-tracing guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After several players balked at the idea of being confined to hotel rooms and ballparks when a plan for a quarantined season in Arizona was being discussed, the league’s official health-and-safety proposals didn’t mandate that players had to stay in their hotel rooms on the road — even while it did mandate such restrictions on movement for other members of the traveling party — increasing the risk of the virus coming into the league from an outside source.

And let's remember that there are vastly more people than just the players that will be needed to stage a season. The more people involved, the higher the risk of spreading the virus within the game.

So while bans on Gatorade coolers and mound visits are all well and good, even viewed by some players as excessive, the most effective measures for preventing the spread of the virus are perhaps not stringent enough.

It remains to be seen what will happen in Japan, how that league handles these positive tests and whether more positive tests pop up in the wake of these first two. But the coronavirus will not stop at the ballpark gate. And Major League Baseball needs to make sure it’s doing everything it can as best it can to keep its players safe, or risk a season — however long — in which players could get sick and get others sick, too.

 

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