Thursday, March 13, 2008

By Kevin Mark Salt Lake Scout & Columnist

This entry really is about Garret Anderson. I'm going to take a little detour at the beginning but I assure all Angels fans that Garret Anderson is the focus of what I am going to write.

Since I started following the Angels in 2002, I have heard numerous complaints and criticisms about the way Anderson plays the game. Most of the criticisms have to do with Anderson's perceived lack of hustle. I have never understood why Angels fans complain about Anderson. GA is a marvelous ballplayer and has been a key part of the Angels successes. But as I began to write about Anderson I could not stop thinking of Amos Otis, one of my all time favorite players. Otis was the center fielder for the Kansas City Royals from 1970 to 1983 and, like Anderson, was criticized by the fans for not playing the game with maximum effort.

During his career with the Royals, many fans and members of the Kansas City media viewed Otis as a player that didn't hustle and didn't seem interested in playing the game. These critics would point to teammates George Brett and Hal McRae as examples of players that "played the game the right way." What AO's detractors didn't or wouldn't realize was that Otis was a different kind of player than both Brett and McRae. While Brett and McRae were grit and guts Otis was smooth and athletic. During his career, Otis was a five time all-star and a three time Gold Glove winner. He led the American League twice in doubles and once in stolen bases.
It wasn't until Otis left the Royals that many of the fans in Kansas City realized how special of a player he was.

The best description of Amos Otis was written by respected author and Royals fan Bill James in his 1984 Baseball Abstract:

"Amos Otis was an intensely private man leading an intensely public life. He disdained showmanship—probably he hated showmanship — of any type and to any extent. He could never quite deal with the fact that his business was putting on a show. This is what is called "moodiness" by the media. Yet there was a rare, deep honesty about him that was the defining characteristic of him both as a man and as a ballplayer. He could not stand to do anything for show. He could not charge into walls (and risk his continued existence as a ballplayer) after balls that he could not catch. He could not rouse the fans (and risk his continued existence as a baserunner) with a stirring drive for a base too far. He never in his career stood at home plate and watched a ball clear the fence. McRae and Brett, they did that sort of thing; Otis would sometimes turn away interview requests with a sardonic comment, 'Talk to Brett and McRae. They're the team leaders.'"

"It went further than that. Amos could not quite walk down the line when he hit a popup (that, too, would be dishonest) but he could not bring himself to run, either. Because it was false, you see? He wouldn't have been running for himself or for the team or for the base; he would have been running for the fans, or for the principle that one always ran."

Sadly, it appears that many Angels fans will not fully appreciate Garret Anderson's abilities and accomplishments until his career is over. For his career, Anderson has 2205 hits and a .297 lifetime batting average. GA is a three time all-star and a two time time Silver Slugger winner. Twice he has lead the American League in doubles. Now in his mid-30s, even though age has taken a toll on Anderson, his .297 average with 16 homeruns and 80 RBIs in 2007 shows that he is still producing and is a valuable part of the Angels lineup. Despite all of his accomplishments, Anderson is still the target of criticism from Angels fans. The criticism directed at Anderson is unfortunate because he is a class act and a solid ballplayer.

Many Angels fans point at Anderson's reluctance to DH as a sign that he is selfish and too proud to give up his position in the outfield. This criticism is without merit. Any fan watching the Angels play in 2007 can see that Anderson is still a good outfielder. Anderson does not dive after balls, crash into walls, or throw himself head first into the stands. But he is a good outfielder that runs down balls in the gap and makes smart throws to the bases. Rarely does Anderson miss a cut off man. As with Amos Otis, fans watch Anderson's style of play in the outfield and incorrectly label it as lazy or use it to say he has lost a step. After watching Anderson for several seasons now, he does seem a lot like Otis. He doesn't make vain attempts for balls that he cannot catch and he doesn't run himself out of position trying to track down a ball that is uncatchable. I am sure there will be times when Anderson's legs will need to rest and placing him in the DH will be the option to keep his bat in the lineup. The one statistic that Angels fans should keep in mind is that in 2007 Garret Anderson hit .319 when playing left field and .208 when slotted in the lineup as the designated hitter. Anderson has always struck me as a proud man and I don't believe he would put himself in a position to embarrass himself or hurt the Angels chances of winning.

Hopefully Angels fans will appreciate GA for what he continues to accomplish and not wait until his career is over to realize how good of player he truly is.

Love to hear what you think!


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