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Hallowed Halo

Garret Anderson draws attention in pennant race

September 15, 2002|From Associated Press

ANAHEIM — There's a minimum of flash to Garret Anderson's game, and that's probably why he's played in virtual anonymity throughout his eight-year career with the Angels.

Now that the Angels have a great shot at making the playoffs for the fourth time in franchise history and first since 1986, Anderson is being mentioned as a candidate for the AL Most Valuable Player award, along with Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and Torii Hunter.

And rightfully so.

"It's fine, I don't have a problem with it. It's not a bad thing," the 30-year-old left fielder said with a slight smile when asked about his newfound recognition. "I'm going about it my way."

That involves quietly going about his business on the field. He doesn't flip his bat after he hits a homer, pump his fists as he rounds the bases or leap with joy after a great catch.

"I'm not a flashy person, it's just not me," Anderson said. "I was raised to go out and play hard, let your numbers do the talking.

"I'm quiet. You'll see a smile out of me, that's where it ends. There's a couple times this year when I've gotten excited, like when David Eckstein hit those game-winning grand slams earlier in the season.

"You're not going to see me excited about doing my job. When somebody does something above and beyond, that's when you appreciate what's going on, and I'll react."

Anderson, an All-Star for the first time in 2002, is puzzled about his lack of recognition until this season.

"I don't know why. It would be a great answer to find out," the Angels' only All-Star said.

"I don't write the articles, I'm not one to go searching for publicity. That's OK. My focus is on winning and getting to the postseason.

"I'm not worried about individual stuff. I had great numbers last year, and we didn't do well. Ultimately, it's a team thing. In professional sports, when you're winning, everybody notices you."

Anderson recently became the first player in franchise history to drive in 100 or more runs in three consecutive seasons, and he's got a good shot at surpassing his career high of 123, which he set last year.

The left-handed hitter leads the majors in doubles and ranks among baseball's top 10 in hits, extra base hits, total bases, multihit games and RBIs.

In addition, he's a .300 hitter against both right-handers and left-handers.

The Angels are a virtual cinch to surpass the club-record 93 wins of 1982, and it clearly has been Anderson leading the way.

"It would be an understatement just to say he's been a keystone," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He deserves MVP consideration in our league. He's automatic. You know he's going to get a good at-bat just about every time he's up.

"As I talk to managers and players around the league, they're well aware of his ability. To the baseball world, he's known. We wouldn't be talking about pennant races or playoffs if Garret hadn't done what he's done."

Anderson shies away from such talk.

"There are a lot of reasons we're doing well," he said. "I'm not carrying this team on my back by any means."

Oakland Manager Art Howe poked a little fun at the media when asked about Anderson.

"What impressed me about Garret Anderson is that nobody seems to know about him. You guys do a lousy job of promoting this guy," Howe said. "He's one of the better players in the league ever since I've been in it. This guy can flat-out hit."

Anderson, second to Marty Cordova for AL Rookie of the Year in 1995, has played in 150 or more games in every season since 1996. He's missed 16 games the last five years, one this season.

And he keeps getting better.

"I've searched for ways to improve my total game," he said. "I try to be smarter about the game. What I try to do is watch the other top players, find out what they're doing.

"I'm a student of the game. I think all great players are. You can't just use your talent, you have to be thinking out on the field."

Anderson's teammates seem almost in awe.

"If there's a perfect swing, he has it," outfielder Darin Erstad said.

"His knack for driving in the key run is amazing," first baseman Scott Spiezio said.

"In here, he's as big a star as he should be in the entire country's eyes," closer Troy Percival said. "I really respect the way he plays the game."

Percival called Anderson the perfect teammate.

"He really hasn't gotten the respect he deserves," Percival said. "He's been probably the most consistent player this organization's ever had. The guy goes out there to win every day.

"Very rarely do you ever see a smile, but it's fun when you do. He'll hit that game-winning home run and then you see a smile on him and you know, hey, he did something really good today."

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