Kobe Bryant's words resonate after Anderson's two miscues

May 28th, 2024

SAN DIEGO -- There is a Kobe Bryant quote framed inside the visitor’s clubhouse at Petco Park:

“Everything negative … pressure, challenges -- is all an opportunity for me to rise.”

Marlins shortstop took solace in the late Basketball Hall of Famer’s words after committing two crucial errors Monday in a 2-1 loss to the Padres at Petco Park.

“I just read that sign right there, and that put me in a better situation, in a better mood,” Anderson said. “I am beat up about it, but overall, I just continue to keep getting better. I can't be worse than that. So I can only get better, so that's a positive.”

With the Marlins and Padres knotted at 1-1 in the seventh inning, Ha-Seong Kim led off with a single against lefty A.J. Puk. After Luis Arraez flied out, Fernando Tatis Jr. sent a grounder 104.5 mph off the bat into the hole at short, where Anderson knocked down the ball on a backhand on a potential inning-ending double play.

It brought about a mound visit from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. Following a lineout by Jurickson Profar, Marlins manager Skip Schumaker turned to right-hander Anthony Bender to face the right-handed-hitting Manny Machado.

When Machado sent a sinker up the middle, Anderson bobbled it on the fourth bounce to load the bases. Bender subsequently lost a seven-pitch matchup with Jake Cronenworth by walking in the decisive run.

“Just overall I've got to make those plays, and that's really it,” Anderson said. “I've got to make those plays in that situation. Both of them.”

Entering Monday, Anderson’s fielding has been average across various metrics: 1 fielding run value, 0 outs above average and -1 defensive runs saved. With six errors in 40 games at shortstop (0.15 errors per game), that would put him at 22 errors by season’s end -- still a better pace than his 2017-19 (0.18 E/game).

But Anderson’s miscues fall in line with a season-long trend that has cost Miami. The Marlins are tied with Oakland for the most errors in the Majors. They entered Monday tied with the third-lowest DRS, per FanGraphs, and have the fewest OAA.

Miami dropped to 1-8 when committing two-plus errors. Of late, the ballclub has been playing cleaner baseball, which has enabled it to win close games.

“We're going to hang out after the game, not going to say much at the field,” said Jazz Chisholm Jr., whose solo home run was the Marlins’ only offense. “We're going to hang out, go to the room, probably play some cards and just try to forget about it.

“We're going to talk a little bit of baseball. But errors happen in the game. We know that. Some days aren't going to be the best, and he knows that. He's been here for longer than all of us. Now it's just like going out there and coming out tomorrow and just being better.”

The Marlins saw Anderson as a prime bounce-back candidate and made him their only Major League signing of the offseason, inking him to a $5 million deal.

Once a face of the White Sox franchise, Anderson became a free agent after Chicago declined a $14 million contract option for 2024. He had not played more than 123 games in any season since ’19 due to injuries, including a nagging left MCL sprain that contributed to his '23 struggles. (His .582 OPS was the lowest among all qualified MLB hitters.)

The 30-year-old Anderson, who won an American League batting title in 2019 and an AL Silver Slugger Award in ‘20, is still trying to rediscover his old self. He entered Monday with a 33 OPS+ and has a homerless drought of 325 plate appearances -- the second longest in MLB.

Both the Marlins and Anderson were optimistic his 10-day injured-list stint for lower back tightness earlier this month might serve as a reset, but it has yet to happen (.238 average since he returned).

“I think he has some work to do, no doubt,” Schumaker said. “He's frustrated. You can tell he was frustrated today. … He knows he's a better player, and he's a winning player, too. I think that's what hurts him the most.”

Added Anderson: “I'm not really where I need to be. The work is there; the work ethic is there. It's only a matter of time, hopefully, that things could swing my way. All I could do is just continue to keep putting the work in and just keep trusting in it, and just keep believing it.”