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In the end, Tony La Russa was more correct than Ozzie Guillen when it came to handling Tim Anderson, but both points had merit.
That Anderson suffered a significant groin injury on an involved-yet-standard baseball effort on Sunday showed why La Russa tried to rest Anderson’s legs as much as possible, much to Guillen’s chagrin. That Anderson had to be helped off the field making the kind of above-average play required of a shortstop showed why a manager might be better off maximizing lineups when possible, because some players will struggle to stay on the field no matter the care and caution taken.
La Russa played Anderson on a 140-game pace through Sunday’s excruciating victory over the Cubs, including six consecutive games. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but considering Anderson could only take the field for 123 games in his last two full seasons, it represented a step up. At the same time, six consecutive games over this particular stretch wasn’t a huge ask, because it included two days off, and another one right around the corner today. Conveniently, six games in eight days would put him on pace for 122 games, so he’d been playing the workload to which he was accustomed.
Anderson’s status is now up in the air, and the White Sox said he’ll undergo further evaluation today. Based on what we saw and how everybody sounded, 123 games suddenly looks enviable, and the larger picture bleak.
I’m not inclined to write off the White Sox, if only because the Twins lost Sonny Gray and Royce Lewis in the same game, leading Dan Hayes to issue a similar verdict of what he saw at Target Field Sunday.
The AL Central is shaping up to be a war of attrition, so the White Sox may not be out, if only because the division will not allow them to be.
Yet I don’t blame anybody who is considering other summer plans, because Anderson was the only automatic contributor on the offense. His season hits the pause button while he’s hitting .356/.393/.503, and he’d taken his unusual powers to a whole new level. He was swinging more yet whiffing less, 8-for-8 in stolen bases, and with defense that was digging itself out of a huge hole to start the season, he put himself on pace for MVP votes.
Nobody else on the White Sox has an OPS within 120 points of Anderson’s .896, but setting the specifics production aside for a second, Anderson’s injury strikes such a chord at this particular time because he’s the only White Sox position player making the game resemble entertainment. Without him, a White Sox lineup card triggers the quiet despair of watching hungry toddlers languish in an escape room. Work together? They can’t even take care of themselves.
There are no fresh Band-Aids, either. Jake Burger can’t play second base as long as Yoán Moncada’s own mutinous legs are requiring Burger to play third. Also, Burger can’t play second base. It’s a fun idea until the first couple pop-ups inside the right-field line. Yolbert Sánchez could help a little, but his ceiling is what the Sox had hoped for from Josh Harrison, and the floor is something like what the Sox are getting from Harrison now.
That makes Sánchez is worth trying if the White Sox go that route, but the material improvements are going to have to come from the players who haven’t been improving, available, or some combination of the two. Besides the standard battle between optimism and pessimism, there isn’t much to say. We can only watch, and that could be considerably more difficult now. That’s what I get the Patreon bucks for.