Since 2016, the Chicago White Sox have been led by a confident, energetic shortstop who is looking to change baseball for the better. This, of course, is Tim Anderson. One of the premier shortstops in the MLB, Anderson has been at the center of controversy numerous times. Despite this, he is exactly what baseball needs.
For a younger generation of sports fans, it is easy to understand why baseball may be considered boring. While the average length of an MLB game isn’t much different than basketball or football, the pace of play is drastically different. Deemed “The Thinking Man’s Game”, it can be a slow process to even finish just one inning. After all, there is no clock in baseball so the game goes as the pitcher and batter go.
In addition to the slow pace, baseball is known for its bevy of “unwritten rules”. Most of these are put in place to make sure the players act or look a certain way when on the field. This leads to things such as bat flips, celebrations, or adding to a big lead being frowned upon. In many instances, the other team will retaliate by hitting the offender with the baseball.
Of course, if you are a baseball fan you know all of this already. However, it is crucial to point all of this out to show why younger fans may not be as interested in the great game. In the social media age where fans can consume media in an instant, baseball will always have a hard time competing with football and basketball. It just isn’t as consistently exciting. Unfortunately, that’s how the players like it.
Changing Of The Guard
However, not all players fall into this line of thinking. One of the first to buck this trend was Tim Anderson. Although his basketball playing days are in the past, it is clear that the showmanship of the sport has never left him.
While he was always a talented hitter, it was a bat flip that initially put him in the national spotlight. After hitting a two-run home run off the Royals Brad Keller, he celebrated by launching the bat.
Keller would retaliate later in the game by hitting Anderson with a pitch. However, the precedent was set: baseball can be exciting. Going forward, Anderson never stopped being himself. Whether it was a walk-off to beat the Tigers or the magical ending in the Field of Dreams game, he was always going to have fun.
Backing it up
While he was breaking the unwritten rules, he was also becoming one of the league’s best players on the field. The stats are impressive, with a batting average of over .300 and an OPS of over .800 in each of the last three seasons. Currently, he leads all shortstops in hits, total bases, batting average, OBP, slugging, wRC+ and WAR.
However, it is the way he gets these numbers that helps him achieve his goal of making baseball fun. In an era where the home run reigns supreme and strikeouts are more common than ever, Anderson takes a different approach. Rather than always looking to pull the ball, he has no problem poking the ball into the opposite field. Simply, he puts the ball in play often and, with an otherwordly BABIP of .345, he has tremendous success doing so.
Anderson has found a perfect middle ground between being aggressive and smart. A bit of a throwback as a contact hitter who can steal bases, he is a fantastic leadoff hitter for Chicago.
A Face Of The Game
This is why baseball needs Anderson. He is young, confident, and exciting which will appeal to younger fans all over the globe. At the same time, he plays the game similarly to the legends of years past. He is changing the game every time he steps on the diamond.
Perhaps Anderson explains himself the best: “I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson. That’s huge to say, but it’s cool man because he changed the game and I feel like I’m getting to a point where I need to change the game.”
So, after the Yankees Josh Donaldson attempted to use these words to hurt Anderson on Saturday, the White Sox rallied around him and defended him at all costs. In the end, it would be Anderson who got the last laugh over Donaldson and the Yankees after hitting a three-run home run in the eighth to seal a White Sox win.
Although Anderson may have been quieting the fan as he crossed home plate, it is becoming impossible to do anything but talk about him. While he may not be the perfect player, he is perfect for modern-day baseball. And that is why this sport needs Tim Anderson.