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McGair: Lars Anderson finally gets a change of scenery

July 31, 2012

Lars Anderson, who played in 342 games over the past three seasons with the Pawtucket Red Sox, batted .259 with nine homers and 52 RBIs in 93 games for the PawSox this season. PHOTO BY JILLIAN SOUZA.

It’s easy to get swept up with the sentiment that for Lars Anderson, Tuesday was Liberation Day.
The moment the Red Sox brought Adrian Gonzalez into the fold in December 2010, Anderson’s path to reach the big leagues with the club that drafted and developed him became infinitely harder. The deal with the Padres made Gonzalez a rich man while simultaneously poured cold water on the notion that Anderson was Boston’s first baseman of the future.
In the subsequent 1½ seasons that have followed since Gonzalez’ arrival, the question that has hung over Anderson’s head like a lead balloon was not if he would get traded, but when. No matter how Anderson fared, he was a trade chip due to the significant amount of years (seven) and money ($154 million) invested in Gonzalez.
With that as the background, it should come as no surprise that Anderson was traded to Cleveland just minutes before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver deadline. The player who deep down was probably craving a change of scenery got his just desserts – a chance to go to another team, the Indians, and with it received a clearer path to establish himself as a dependable, everyday major leaguer.
“I’m definitely excited about this new opportunity,” said Anderson when reached Tuesday night.
In some degree, Anderson had his shot to put his stamp on the first baseman’s gig, and failed to grab the reins and show Boston’s front office that, yes, he was worthy of becoming a fixture for years to come. Remember back in the winter of 2008 when Boston made a substantial pitch to land Mark Teixeira only to see him end up signing with the Yankees? Such a perceived blow of your chief rival swooping in to acquire a player was lessoned due to Anderson, and the belief Sox management had in him.
Before the 2009 season, Anderson was the darling of Boston’s crown jewel, the belief that even though Teixeira was in pinstripes, an adequate solution was on the horizon. Baseball America certainly played a substantial role in creating “Lars-mania,” hailing this 18th-round selection of the 2006 draft as the top prospect in the entire Red Sox chain.
Instead of building off a 2008 season that saw him swat 18 home runs and drive in 80 runs between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Portland, Anderson spent the 2009 season chasing after his own shadow. He failed to take the next step forward in his development, spending the entire year in Portland where he batted .233 in 119 games and showed surprisingly little power (nine home runs in 447 at-bats).
“Maybe the results aren’t really there this year, but I’m learning so much,” said Anderson during the 2009 season. “These growing pains are going to be beneficial in the long run.”
It’s worth noting that Anderson was just 21 in 2009, meaning time was still on his side to justify his lofty status. His output in that aforementioned season may have set in the motion the wheels that eventually resulted in Boston pulling the trigger on Gonzalez, yet Anderson still had the 2010 season to stake his claim.
His much-anticipated move to Triple-A Pawtucket came late in April 2010, this after Anderson finally solved Double-A pitching. At the time of his promotion, he was hitting .355 with five doubles, five home runs, 16 RBI and an Eastern League-leading .408 on-base percentage in 62 at-bats.
Instead of building on his early-season success, Anderson leveled off. With the PawSox in 2010, he hit .262 with a .768 OPS in 113 games. Even more alarming was the continued lack of power (10 round trippers in 409 Class AAA at-bats).
And this is the guy who was supposed to make Red Sox fans forget about Teixeira?
Red Sox officials tried to mask Anderson’s shortcomings with the long ball with the belief that the power will eventually come for someone who at 6-foot-5 looked the part of a slugging first baseman. Privately, though, management was warming up to the premise that Anderson, a player who had been given a number of chances to grab the brass ring, was not the answer.
To surmise, Anderson was not Teixeira, nor was he Gonzalez, the player that ultimately made this one-time, top-flight prospect expendable.
Knowing that he was blocked, Anderson sought to make the best of his situation. To his credit, he never pouted or walked around the PawSox clubhouse feeling all “woe is me.”
It’s still worth noting that even though the pressure had been lifted from his shoulders, Anderson continued to display the same shortcomings that ultimately took him out of the running of becoming Boston’s first baseman. Lauded for his plate discipline – Anderson led all International League batters with 80 walks in 2011 and was once again in the top 10 in the same category this season – Anderson remained reluctant to turn on any pitch on the inner half of the plate, according to an industry source.
All things considered, it seemed that Anderson had accepted his fate that he wasn’t in Boston’s plans and that all he could do was wait and see what happens.
On the one-year anniversary of his near-trade to his hometown Oakland Athletics, Anderson was officially paroled from the purgatory that you could say was of his own creation. Once upon a time, he was the brightest prospect in Boston’s constellation. He was supposed to be Mark Teixeira, a middle-of-the-order thumper who could anchor the lineup for several seasons.
Anderson never measured up to the hype that entered into his universe in 2009. His tale serves as a chief reminder that all prospects are merely suspect until proven otherwise, a belief backed by the course of action Baseball America has taken in the subsequent years since lauding him as Boston’s primo farmhand.
In 2010, the publication dropped Anderson to fourth followed by eighth in 2011, followed by 28th in 2012.
Asked to sum up his six-year tenure with the BoSox' franchise, Anderson responded, “I’m really thankful for the opportunity. There were high points and low points, but I’m definitely thankful for all of it.”
The Red Sox could have had Teixeira, yet wound up putting all their eggs in Anderson’a basket. Two off-seasons later, Boston officially raised the white flag on Anderson by obtaining Gonzalez. In a nutshell, that’s why Anderson is now property of the Cleveland Indians.

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