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Tim Anderson and White Sox respond as errors, defensive miscues pile up: ‘Keep trying to get better’
The White Sox have an error problem.
How big a problem it actually is depends on who you ask.
Errors will make fans tear their hair out. They make any player or team that commits them look hapless. They can make an otherwise fine, good or great team look like a bunch of screw-ups.
Heck, every time I see one, I instinctively do a Curly Howard impression. And when you’re trying to perform athletic feats at world-class levels, you don’t want to look like a Stooge.
The numbers are the numbers, and the White Sox committed four errors in Monday’s outrageous collapse, leading to a whopping eight unearned runs as the South Siders blew a six-run ninth-inning lead and lost in extras. That was just one horrible, no good, really bad night, of course, but they made a whole mess of errors during that nasty eight-game losing streak, too, entering play Tuesday with 26 of them, the most in the major leagues.
Tony La Russa doesn’t think, though, that those numbers are necessarily a sign of a bad defensive team at the corner of 35th and Shields.
“You can use and abuse statistics,” La Russa said. “We’re .500 as a team. If you watch the games that were close or we’ve won, we made a lot of defensive plays. We’ve had some breakdowns, for whatever the reasons.
“I’m confident that we’re a good enough defensive club and we’ll get better. … I’m confident that we’re the defensive club that I’ve seen already this year. In most of the games, we’ve made plays, key plays, to win close games, and (there have been) a couple places where, several places where a play was not made. I can see why, and I know it can be fixed.”
Ask how the White Sox clean up those defensive mistakes, and you’re not likely to hear much in the way of specifics.
“Of course we want to win them all, of course we want to make all the plays. It’s not like we’re out there intentionally trying to fuck up,” Tim Anderson said. “We get it, the game’s hard. I could give you (a questioning reporter) the glove, I’m sure you couldn’t make the play.
“You’ve just got to be realistic and understand that we are playing a tough game. All we can do is try to get better. I’m sure everybody has had a bad day at work. … I’m just trying to really forget about it and keep rolling.
“All I can do is keep rolling, keep going and not dwell on one error and just try to keep getting better. That’s all I can do. I can’t go back and take those errors away, they already happened. All I can do is keep playing it out, keep grinding it out, keep trying to get better.”
Anderson has been one of the focal points of the White Sox’ lingering defensive issues, with nine errors to lead the team, major league shortstops and all players in the bigs. He committed two more Monday, including one of the two South Side errors during the ninth-inning collapse. He’s booted balls, made wide throws and missed balls coming back from the outfield.
It’s all looked rather strange, really, because even though Anderson has long piled up errors, he’s made noticeable improvements in the field over the course of his career. Those errors have more often than not come because he was attempting a spectacular play that his athleticism put him in a position to attempt, where most other players aren’t even capable of getting that far. The errors this year have looked different.
But Anderson stuck to his “keep working” line Tuesday. On one hand, it doesn’t offer much in the way of explanation for how to stop a wave of mistakes. But on the other, it’s how he’s improved his game over the years. So given the results, it strikes as a perfectly reasonable strategy.
“You only can get better,” he said. “Shit, I’m at the worst right now, so all I can do is get better. It’s up on me to just continue to keep working. … I’m trying. I’m working hard, trying to make the plays.
“It’s a different season. It’s not going to be quite the same as last season. Just because I made 10 errors last season doesn’t mean I’m going to make none this season. So all I can do is keep working and try to get better.”
As alluded to, Anderson makes plenty of dazzling plays to go along with sporadic miscues. La Russa, unsurprisingly, focused on that positive side of the equation, one that can admittedly get lost when frustrated fans react to the negative.
“All I know is there’s been a couple, three times in this past road trip where the last out in the eighth or the ninth was going to him. (And he had) sure hands, strong, good throw,” La Russa said. “You don’t ignore the errors, but everything he’s doing that’s not right can be fixed.
“I hope every game it’s the ninth inning with a one-run lead, and a ground ball is hit to Tim. We’re going to win almost all those games.”
We’ve seen enough amazing plays in the field by Anderson, and have witnessed the fruits of his work at his craft, to know that the present could very well be an aberration, a magnified rough stretch that could quickly become ancient history.
But the White Sox have been talking about improving their team-wide defense for a while now, citing it as one of the issues that plagued them in last fall’s ALDS loss to the Astros.
“That motto, that defense wins championships,” Liam Hendriks said in November. “Unfortunately, you look at the playoffs, we had the lowest defense in the league in the playoff group. … Over the course of the year, I think they got depicted in a poor light defensively. I think we’re a lot better defensively as a team than what was depicted in the standings or stats. But making a couple of adjustments there and then bringing some guys in that are more glove-first guys, that I think can make a huge difference down the stretch.”
“I think the biggest driver in the postseason was the ball going far makes the team go far, more home runs than the defense, necessarily,” Rick Hahn said in November. “But the defense is important, and it’s an area that we can improve. … As we look to potentially bring in guys from the outside, defense will be part of our focus. … We made some improvements there, but there’s still a chance to potentially get better in that regard, too.”
The White Sox brought in Josh Harrison, AJ Pollock and Reese McGuire in the offseason, all guys with good defensive reputations. Pollock is a former Gold Glove winner, and McGuire is earning rave reviews – and an awful lot of playing time – for what he can do behind the plate.
But it remains a team-wide issue, as Gavin Sheets dropping a first-inning fly ball and Yoán Moncada booting a ball in the ninth showed Monday.
“We’re working as hard as we can,” Sheets said. “And I can tell you right now, no one wants to make errors, no one wants to make mistakes. We’re putting in the extra work. We’re putting in all the work that we can. We’re playing as hard as we can. Whatever happens happens when you’re on the field.
“I can tell you one thing: We’re giving it 100 percent.”
Will that be enough, though?
If it’s not, and the defensive miscues keep happening, there’s a good chance it will again be a talking point in November.
And so the White Sox will keep working and keep trusting that the work will be what puts a defensive dark period behind them.
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