What a week it’s been for White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
That whole Josh Donaldson thing. The enormity of a controversy. The questions and answers that followed for days.
And the baseball.
Anderson’s first response to it was a game-clinching home run Sunday, on national television, from New York City.
And while Donaldson was sheltered by a stay on the COVID-19 list, Anderson kept playing superb baseball. Starting with a two-hit game game in New York Saturday, when Donaldson called him “Jackie,” Anderson went on a 10-for-21 tear and played clean, sometimes flashy defense at shortstop.
“He rises to big moments,” Sox third base and infielders coach Joe McEwing told the Sun-Times.
“I would never doubt that man.”
McEwing, who has been by Anderson’s side since his rookie season in 2016, has hit thousands and thousands of ground balls to Anderson and had who knows how many conversations with him about baseball and life.
“Nobody understands the journey and path the man has been through to prepare him for these occasions,” McEwing said.
McEwing watched Anderson this week and was not surprised.
“It’s over, it’s behind us and we move forward,” McEwing said. “He handled it extremely well. He’s grown so much as an individual, each day. As he continues to grow as a person he grows on the field as well. I’m extremely proud of the way he has handled it and moved on.
“There are situations where people thrive in, and they’re special talents. He always rises up. Look at how he rises up in the playoffs. He wants those moments.”
Somewhat lost in all of the Donaldson hullabaloo is the way Anderson’s defense has found its footing after rashes of errors. He made nine in his first 24 games, leading the major leagues, and answered questions with humility.
“I’m like the worst right now,” he said before a game on May 10. “All I can do is get better. I’ve got to keep working.”
McEwing knew he would. And that he would rally. And Anderson has, playing errorless ball in 14 games since then. Of his last 25 games, 24 have come without an error.
“If you look at his history, there always will be two or three days where there are three or four errors,” McEwing said. “I know it’s coming at some point and I’m glad it came early because he’s been magnificent since. Usually happens once in spring training for a day or two and we slow things down. And it happens once in the season, usually at a time when he’s played a lot of games in a row and he’s tired.
“Right now, I think he’s in the best place he’s ever been.”
The Cubs come to the South Side for games Saturday and Sunday and Anderson, a .485 hitter in the postseason and owner of a walkoff homer against the Yankees in last year’s Field of Dreams game says the glare of center-stage games doesn’t affect him.
Saturday’s game is part of Fox’s “Baseball Night in America” package.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s an ESPN game or Fox,” Anderson told the Sun-Times. “It’s cool to play on ESPN, don’t get me wrong. At the end of the day it’s my career so I play hard whether it’s on TV, on YouTube, on Apple TV or [local] NBC [Sports Chicago]. I’m going to play my same game.”
That game this season has produced a .363/.401/.516 hitting line with five homers, nine doubles, 19 RBI and seven stolen bases. Seeking his second batting title in four years, Anderson is third in the majors in batting average. He has batted .335, .322, .309 and .363 in his last four seasons.
Anderson leads major league shortstops in 2022 in hits, average, on-base percentage, total bases, OPS+ and batting wins above replacement.
Since 2019, he leads AL shortstops in average (. 328) and multihit games (137), and is fourth or higher in six other categories.
“Everyone doubted it, saying what he was doing was not sustainable and he keeps doing it,” McEwing said. “Is that sustainable? There are facts. Everyone probably said that about Tony Gwynn.
“It’s amazing how talented and gifted he is.”
CUBS AT SOX
Saturday: Keegan Thompson (4-0, 1.54 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (0-0, 0.00), 6:15 p.m., FOX, 1000-AM.
Sunday: Marcus Stroman (2-4, 4.71) vs. Dylan Cease (4-2, 4.24), 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM