An Unbreakable Straw That Stirs The Drink

Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field - credit City of Chicago_Chris McGuireOnce upon a time the Chicago White Sox thought they had their centerfielder of the future.

This man—a mythic figure by some—was labeled as a building block for the future. His glove out in center reminded people of Gold Glove winners throughout history. Many believed he would have an adequate enough bat to be inserted into the bottom of the order and then slowly make his way to the top. “A future catalyst” they proclaimed. “A multi-time Gold Glove winner” praised another.

Who was this man that was suppose to defy all odds and be the most stable presence in centerfield for the White Sox in recent memory? His name is Brian Anderson.

As much as we like to deny our misguidedness, it is true that the majority believed the Anderson hype. Who could blame you?

All White Sox fans heard leading up to Anderson’s call-up in 2005 was how this was the first five-tool player the Southside has seen since Bo Jackson was limping around as a shell of himself.

Right off the bat Anderson made an imprint in our collective conscious. Remember August 26th, 2005 when the White Sox were in the midst of an almost epic collapse? The rookie outfielder slammed two homers off of budding Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.

The hype was real! People began celebrating the present and also the future.

Despite finishing 2005 with a .176 batting average, Anderson was expected to be a core piece moving forward. Clearly the organization believed that too as they traded fan favorite, starting centerfielder Aaron Rowand to the Philadelphia Phillies that offseason.

Anderson was slotted in as the starting outfielder in 2006 and proceeded to hit .225 with 8 home runs. Despite his defense, the once heralded prospect never came close to the lofty expectations placed on him.

In 2009 the White Sox traded Anderson to the Boston Red Sox for Mark Kotsay. After four-plus seasons in Chicago, Anderson’s legacy boiled down to that diving catch he made to win Game 163 in 2008.

Why bring up a former bust who has no relevance to this year’s team?

The purpose is for fans to appreciate even more the man currently roaming center on the Southside.

Adam Eaton is not Brian Anderson. He proved that in one season in Chicago.

After being acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team deal in which the White Sox traded away hybrid pitcher Hector Santiago, Eaton—like Anderson—was expected to jump head first into the pool.

Slotted by manager Robin Ventura in the leadoff spot, Eaton made his presence felt right away as he acted as a table setter for the bashers in the middle of the order. He finished his first year with the White Sox posting a slash line of  .300/.362/.401. These numbers are even more appealing when one places them side-by-side against past White Sox centerfielders.

Eaton made more of an impact in his inaugural season on the Southside than Darin Erstad and Kenny Lofton did when they were brought on as veterans to help bring stability to young White Sox teams in the past. He is the perfect blend of speed, hitting, defense, and tenacity. What the marketing department would have given to have Eaton, a prototypical grinder, on the 2005 team known for following the grinder rules.

After receiving a team-friendly extension before the 2015 season started, Eaton struggled out of the gate. His aggressiveness transformed from his most admirable quality to one that people started to hold against him. Eaton entered May without a single RBI which was partially his fault and also was due to the lack of hitting by the bottom of the order.

As Eaton goes, the lineup goes. When “Spanky” struggles it seems as if the entire order struggles. He is the first domino that needs to fall to start the chain of hitting.

It is not surprising that during the run the White Sox have gone on in May in which they have returned to respectability, Eaton is hitting .291 while he batted a measly .192 in April when most of the roster struggled.

Much was expected out of Eaton again in 2015 thanks in part to the success he had in 2014. That is another way he is different from Anderson. While many placed towering expectations on Anderson throughout his career, it was never based on him being successful at the major league level.

When considering how dismal past White Sox centerfielders have been, Eaton should be cherished even more. He only struggled in small stretches in 2014 so it was unorthodox to see him falter over the course of 30 days. Having it happen in the first month of a season in which the overall bar for the team was raised, resulted in wild conclusions.

Eaton deserves the benefit of the doubt. He is not Anderson or any of the other busts in White Sox history. Rather, he sets the tone for the team. He is indeed the straw that stirs the drink.