Anderson's aggressive lead is more Punch than Judy

April 22, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- He's been labeled as too stubborn to succeed in the big leagues. They've said he has a big man's mentality trapped in a little man's body.

But maybe, just maybe, Brady Anderson was right and the establishment was wrong. Maybe he really isn't the prototype leadoff hitter everyone said he could, and should, be.

Maybe, at 6 feet 1 and 185 pounds, he isn't the "little man" everyone wanted him to be. Maybe, finally, by letting him do it his way, the Orioles have found the leadoff hitter they've been looking for since Al Bumbry left town after the 1984 season.

Maybe.

"Maybe he'll go as cold as ice water," said manager John Oates. "But I've told him he doesn't have to come in and look at the lineup to see if he's playing.

"The one day a month he's not going to play, I'll tell him the night before -- if there's one day a month he isn't going to play. He's been told to just go out and play his game."

And Brady Anderson's game is to be aggressive -- at the plate as well as on the bases. At the moment that style has produced a torrid stretch that is perhaps the most satisfying thing about the Orioles' current five-game winning streak that has produced their best start since 1983.

Anderson slammed a single and two triples to drive in three runs and score another as the Orioles beat the Kansas City Royals, 10-4, last night.

He's now hitting .327, has a .424 on-base percentage, leads the club with 11 runs batted in, and is generally creating havoc as the leadoff hitter in all 13 games played so far.

Anderson is not doing it the Brett Butler way, the "Punch-and-Judy" style having given way to aggression. "There was a time last year, after I came off the disabled list [in June] that I kind of got disgusted with my swing," Anderson admitted.

He had already apparently failed in the latest of a seemingly never-ending series of last chances. If he was going to go down, at least he was going to do it his way.

Bye-bye finesse, hello aggression. That theory had gotten him in trouble in the past, as an endless line of coaches tried to cure him of hitting long fly balls to the warning track.

"When I came back [after his stint on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring], I was probably swinging too hard," said Anderson. "But at least it made me aggressive."

And that's the only style in which Anderson has ever really believed.

"I've always been aggressive," he said. "I like to drive the ball. But I always felt they wanted me to take the 2-and-0 pitch, bunt the ball -- and that's not the kind of hitter I am. I wanted to make myself more aggressive."

The thought of Anderson's trying to be a power hitter is a little scary to Oates, but not enough to discourage him from doing it his way. "He overswings a lot," said Oates. "But he can play Brady Anderson's game and swing hard.

"Our goal was to have him relax. We'd told him to go the other way [hit to the opposite field] so much that his bat became defensive. He doesn't have to work the count [looking for walks] in order to be a leadoff hitter."

Last night Anderson drove in the Orioles' first run with a triple down the rightfield line in the third inning. One inning later he broke the game open with a two-run triple to right-centerfield.

All three of his hits came off righthander Mark Gubicza (0-2). Anderson is now hitting .417 (10-for-24) against Gubicza lifetime, and he's hard-pressed to explain his success.

"I can't tell you why," he said. "The only thing I can think of is that his ball moves so much, that maybe it makes me concentrate more on the ball."

"Everything is magnified at the beginning of the season," Oates said, when informed the Orioles hadn't played this well in the first 13 games since 1983.

But at the moment, the Orioles are doing a lot of things that are ncouraging. They had 14 hits last night, got another solid effort from starter Jose Mesa (1-1) and scored in double-figures in back-to-back games for the first time in five years (July 21-22, 1987).

Chris Hoiles had two more hits to raise his average to a league-leading .390, Mike Devereaux had his second straight three-hit game while batting in the second slot behind Anderson, and there is a general air of confidence in the clubhouse that hasn't been noticed since the near-miracle year of 1989.

Not even the fact that the Royals have now lost 12 of their first 13 games can dull the enthusiasm. The Orioles are in the midst of playing 15 of 19 games on the road, and first baseman Glenn Davis hasn't been in the lineup since Opening Day.

When last night's game started, the temperature was 38 degrees with an arctic wind-chill index of 18. It didn't matter as five players (Anderson, Devereaux, Hoiles, Sam Horn and Joe Orsulak) had multi-hit games, Cal Ripken walked a career-high four times and Mesa kept things under control until the offense took charge.

THE TOP MAN

It isn't often a catcher finds himself atop the American League batting leaders -- none has ever finished the season there dating back to 1900 -- but that's where Orioles backstop Chris Hoiles is sitting today.

Hoiles, at .390 on 16 hits in 41 at-bats, is leading Milwaukee's Kevin Seitzer by five percentage points after last night's AL action.

Hoiles also has four doubles, three homers, nine RBIs and is among the league's leading sluggers with a .707 percentage.

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