Surprise, surprise. Tim Anderson and Lance Lynn are good at baseball.
Like, they’re really good at baseball, which of course everyone on the South Side already knew.
Apparently, though, the rest of the baseball-watching world hasn’t been paying as close of attention.
Grouped with an outrageous collection of talent on Team USA, the two White Sox stars stood out during a Monday-night crushing of Team Canada in the opening round of the World Baseball Classic. It’s been a good few days in the tournament for White Sox players, the American duo joining teammate Yoán Moncada, who’s breaking out offensively for Team Cuba after starting slow in that squad’s first couple games.
Lynn was excellent Monday, striking out six Canadians in five innings, allowing just one run on a solo homer in the second, which was already very insignificant considering the Americans’ nine-run first. Lynn was doing his thing, showing off the spin-and-swear move on strikeouts that South Siders have fallen in love with since he arrived ahead of the 2021 campaign.
Anderson was pretty great, too, adding two more hits, including a triple, to the two he had a night prior in Team USA’s shocking defeat at the hands of Team Mexico. He smacked balls the other way, he raced around the bases. He was TA, even if he was doing a couple uncharacteristic things, like drawing a walk and – what? – playing second base for what might have been the first time in his entire life.
Rave reviews followed from every corner of the baseball universe, whether it be full-time baseball talker and now part-time baseball manager Mark DeRosa, who’s skippering Team USA, or the biggest names in national reporting like Ken Rosenthal, who was also part of the broadcast Monday night.
Though in all their effusiveness toward the White Sox’ duo, and Anderson in particular, they seemed somewhat … surprised?
During the game, Rosenthal relayed how impressed DeRosa has been with Anderson during the short time getting to know him with Team USA, which only assembled about a week ago, the players coming from all corners of Arizona and Florida from their respective clubs’ spring camps. Then Rosenthal wrote about Anderson after the game, saying that he’s reaching “a new level of stardom” while playing in the WBC. And sure, that is indeed possible, should Anderson end up the biggest force for this team on a run to a championship, standing out on a roster that features Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Nolan Arenado.
But I’d argue that Anderson has been with those guys for a while now, in terms of star power, an All Star in back-to-back seasons, including the starter at shortstop for the American League in 2022. A batting champion, he’s part of national ad campaigns for Dairy Queen and BMW, starring alongside Bryce Harper and Pete Alonso, the latter buoyed in the fame department by the fact he plays in New York.
Anderson has been at the center of sport-wide conversations over the evolution of the game, his 2019 bat flip practically pictured in the dictionary when you look up “debates over baseball’s unwritten rules.” And he owns what is arguably baseball’s signature moment on the national stage in recent history, his walk-off home run into the corn to win the Field of Dreams game in 2021.
Folks on the South Side know that Anderson is the face of the White Sox franchise. And I’ve argued for years now that he’s one of the faces of baseball.
Apparently, some people still have a bit of face blindness.
White Sox fans are fond of the national media ignoring their favorite team, part of that fan base-wide chip on the shoulder that is so part of their identity, and maybe that’s what this is, more people who are supposedly experts on the game glossing over whatever’s happening at 35th and Shields, especially in the wake of a massively disappointing 2022 season.
Maybe it’s just a reaction to the failings of last year’s team, folks writing the White Sox off in the national consciousness until they give them a reason not to, which isn’t all too egregious an error, considering the team has spent the last five and a half months talking about how badly it needs to prove itself.
But Anderson and to a lesser degree Lynn, considering his more veteran status, shouldn’t need to prove anything to anybody. As players on the field, they’re among the best; there’s a reason they’re part of Team USA in the first place. Both players’ 2022 seasons were dragged down by injuries, but of all the White Sox players seeking bounce-back campaigns in 2023, they are two of the most likely to achieve them.
And if there is something about these two that White Sox fans needed a reminder of, it’s that. Pessimism has grabbed hold of the fan base thanks to last year, and while that’s plenty justified, it’s well worth remembering why this team was a popular World Series pick a year ago, because guys like Anderson and Lynn are really, really good. If the national baseball scene forgot, they got a reminder Monday night. Plenty of White Sox fans got a reminder, too.
Lynn has looked ready for action since the first day of spring training, obviously a little ahead of schedule because of his WBC obligations. Monday, he looked like it was June. He looks primed for a big season that could send him right back to the upper reaches of the Cy Young vote, where he found himself just two years ago after his first season on the South Side. White Sox starting pitching, in general, could very well drive the bus for this team in 2023 and send it back to the top of the AL Central, and Lynn is the leader of that staff.
There are some folks that might have forgotten just how automatic Anderson has been with the bat since he turned his career around in 2019 and won a batting title. Over the last four seasons, his .318 batting average is the highest in baseball.
In case you – or anyone else out there – might have forgotten.
With the praise from both DeRosa and Rosenthal, though, came the most glaring omission of all. I forgive them both if they’re not regular CHGO readers – sign up for a Diehard membership today, guys! – but to be shocked by Anderson’s personality and energy involves far more than missing just one website’s worth of coverage.
Anderson has been the White Sox’ engine for years now, and that includes inside the clubhouse, where he’s taken his mission to have more fun in life and spread it to his teammates, and in the dugout, where he’s long been described as a motor mouth who’s always revving everyone up, standing on the top step and hollering at anyone who gets on base. Now he’s doing it for the All-Star team that is Team USA.
No shock there.
No one who’s watched these guys should have been surprised Monday night. Whether it was Anderson’s effortless hits to the opposite field or his energy in the clubhouse, whether it was Lynn’s suffocating of an opposing lineup or his post-strikeout emotional outbursts, this is what these guys do.
If they keep doing it for Team USA, it seems most people will finally learn about it. If they keep doing it for the White Sox, everyone on the South Side will see something very familiar – and they’ll probably get to celebrate a lot more wins than they did in 2022, too.
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