Catching Up With an Anderson
|Red Sox||Carl Yastrzemski||3419|
|Browns/Orioles||Cal Ripken, Jr.||3184|
|White Sox||Luke Appling||2749|
|Blue Jays||Tony Fernandez||1583|
The list above represents the career hit leaders for 26 current franchises (I am excluding the four most recent expansion clubs – the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins, and Rays). 17 of the 26 players (the first 17 on the list above) have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and two more (Craig Biggio & Ivan Rodriguez) almost certainly will join the group once they are eligible. Of the remaining seven players (Pete Rose, Edgar Martinez, Ed Kranepool, Bert Campaneris, Tim Wallach, Tony Fernandez, & Garret Anderson), only one – Anderson – still dons the uniform of the team he represents at the top and has the daily opportunity to add to his franchise-leading mark.
Among active players still with their first team, Garret Anderson has been with his club for longer than any other player in the American League. On June 2, 1994, he suited up for the California Angels, batted third in the lineup, collected two singles in four at-bats, and made three putouts in left field. Not a volcanic debut, but then again, Garret Anderson has never been tied to words or phrases so explosive in nature. Instead, he has worked at his craft quietly, consistently, with an air of a worker bee fulfilling his duties and adding to the overall buzz attendant to a group with a singular goal and focus. Too often, we overlook players like Garret Anderson, for our attentions, exclamations, and even our ires are reserved for the men who dance and fret their way upon the center of the stage. Sometimes, moments magnified by circumstance and achievements brightened by context do not exist in a particular career. In these scenarios, the essential data points – the numbers – can provide a glimpse into a career and create flesh where previously one only perceived a skeleton.
Since 1871, 13,303 players have mustered at least one hit in the Majors. Garret Anderson has collected more safeties than all but 122 of those players. He once doubled 56 times in a season – only 12 times in the history of the game has a player had more. With 15 more two-baggers, he will reach a milestone (500 doubles) only attained by 47 other players. And finally, in Major League history, no player has ever come to bat as often (8399 plate appearances) with as few hit-by-pitches (six). In broad strokes, these are some of the markers that have defined and provided substance to Garret Anderson’s career. We can also dig a little deeper, and find other moments to color in the outlines provided above. In 2003, he won the Home Run Derby, started in left field for the American League in the Midsummer Classic, and was named MVP of the game in honor of his three hits (including a home run) and two RBI in the junior circuit’s 7-6 victory. In 1995, after hitting .321 and slugging .505, Anderson finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, losing out to Marty Cordova. He placed fourth in MVP voting in 2002 – the year he clubbed those 56 doubles and helped lead the Angels to their first-ever pennant and World Series title. In the third inning of Game 7 of that World Series, with the score knotted at one apiece, he laced a three-run double to right field and gave the Angels a lead they would never relinquish. While Anderson stood at second base and evenly clapped his a hands a few times, the stoic look – the same countenance he had worn in the batter’s box before his game-changing swing – remained, and the entire baseball world was given a glimpse into the ballplayer whose dedication to his craft and ability to drive a baseball has seemingly followed one long consistent path toward a place atop numerous categories in the Angels’ offensive leaderboards.
Among the thousands of players who have suited up for a Major League game, only 18 have spent their entire careers with one team and stuck around for at least 20 years. It appears that Anderson – now 36-years-old and in the final stages of his 15th season – will not join that group; nor does it seem likely that, as the injuries have increased and the playing time and the adeptness with the bat has diminished, he will string together enough hits to reach 3000 for his career. But flip through an Angels’ media guide, and his presence and legacy remains undeniable. From the California Angels to the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Garret Anderson has been a constant. He started off wearing the classic home whites and road grays with “Angels” in red block lettering across the chest and a blue and red cap emblazoned with a connected ‘C’ and ‘A’, endured the pinstriped blue period featuring angel’s wings in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s, and was still hitting line drives when the classic, red-hued look returned just in time for the team to win the title. Garret Anderson has played more games, scored more runs, doubled more times, driven in more runs, and been on base more often than any other player in the 48-year history of the franchise. He joined the club when Mark Langston and Chuck Finley were the aces on a team that finished 20 games under .500; now, he stands as the patriarch on a club following the lead of pitchers like John Lackey, Joe Saunders, and Francisco Rodriguez toward the second-best record in the American League. In terms of Angels’ baseball, Garret Anderson has seemingly seen and experienced it all – the vagaries, disappointments and exaltations connected to virtually any baseball story and life. Through the roller-coaster ride, he has been as steady as they come – a ballplayer focused on the goal, a ballplayer even and accomplished, a ballplayer collecting knock after knock after knock until one day he stands atop the hit-list of the only franchise he has ever known.
Thanks to baseball-reference.com for information that helped with this piece.