White Sox

Yasmani Grandal calls Anderson injury ‘knockout punch'


The White Sox' fading energy last season became palpable to South Side fans who watched their beloved team go 81-81 last season. 

Even Pedro Grifol, the new White Sox manager and former Kansas City Royals bench coach, mentioned during his opening presser he knew whether or not his Royals could best the White Sox based on their energy leading up to the game. 

With high expectations of a third straight playoff run, they came up short, handing the division title over to the Cleveland Guardians and leaving the season having fell short of their expectations. 

How did it take a turn for the worst? When did the breakdown occur?

"The biggest punch we had was when TA [Tim Anderson] went down," White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal told NBC Sports Chicago's Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk podcast. "Because he's our guy. That was a big punch in the gut."

Anderson injured his left middle finger in early August, eventually leaving him out for the rest of the season after the ailment required surgery to repair a "sagittal band tear."

The White Sox were 56-54 on the day Anderson's injury was announced. They ended 81-81, staying on the same trajectory they set back then in early August. 

The absence placed an onus on the team to find a new leader. That, according to Grandal, was a difficult task for the clubhouse. 

"That was kind of the challenging part about last year," Grandal said. "Who is gonna be the spark? Who is gonna take over? Who is gonna be the guy today? I feel like we put so much pressure within each other to be the guy that it kinda just went downhill." 

Grandal mentioned a new player would attempt to replicate the energy and leadership Anderson brought them each game. There was never a formidable replacement, and questions swirled the clubhouse on the matter. 

All the while, Anderson was working off to the side trying to rehab his hand and return to the team. By the season's end, he had a chance, but it was too late for him to make a difference. The Guardians had already clinched the AL Central before his return would become useful. 

"You'd see him [Anderson] around the stadium rehabbing his hand and doing all this stuff and trying to come back," Grandal said. "And I kinda understand that feeling of not being able to play and rehabbing. And trying to push the envelope."

As the veteran catcher alluded to, what made Anderson's absence more difficult was the absences of other players. Grandal put off back surgery, Eloy Jiménez dealt with an ongoing hamstring injury and Luis Robert couldn't swing with both hands because of a wrist injury.

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Something that did help, however, was the front office's midseason move to acquire shortstop Elvis Andrus from the Oakland Athletics. 

"I think the best thing to happen was to get Elvis over," Grandal said. "That was a big spark. As soon as he came over, his attitude, you see him working every day. That was probably one of the best things that happened."

Andrus replicated a respectable season in place for Anderson. He slashed .271/.309/.464 from the plate in 43 games and 181 at-bats. 

Still, despite the team and organization's best efforts, they fell short of their goal. 

And without Anderson steering the ship, it quickly fell off course. 

"If TA goes, we go," Grandal said. "And I think it's been like that for years here. Since I got here, if TA goes, we go. As soon as he got hurt, it was kind of like a knockout punch.

"Who are we going to look to get that fire going?"

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