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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Time Top 50: #44, Brian Anderson

He’s the man who started for Arizona, after Schilling and Johnson, in the 2001 World Series.

World Series GM3 X
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 38.76 (14/50/45)
  • Seasons: 1998-2002
  • Stats: 160 games, 129 starts, 840.2 IP, 4.52 ERA, 101 ERA+, 7.8 bWAR
  • Best season: 2000 - 33 games, 213.1 IP, 4.05 ERA, 118 ERA+, 4.1 bWAR

Anderson almost had a World Series ring, coming three outs short with the Indians in 1997, and finally got one here for his 2001 efforts. First, though, he had to make it through the franchise’s initial wobbles. He joined the D-backs before they even played a game, a first-round pick from Cleveland, in the expansion draft the November before our inaugural Opening Day at Bank One Ballpark. He posted a credible 12-13 record on the debut team, and was an even more impressive 8-2 the following season. That 1999 performance included a three-hit shutout of the Cubs, and he got a no-decision against the Mets in the NLDS, tossing seven innings of two-run ball in Game 4.

2000 was Brian’s best all-round season, worth 4.1 bWAR - the other 12 years in the majors combined for 6.8. He was effectively the team’s #2 starter behind Randy Johnson for much of the year, until the trade for Curt Schilling down the stretch. He had an ERA+ of 118, despite striking out only 4.4 batters per nine innings. [Anderson was never a high-K guy, with a career average rate of 4.2] But he was not able to build upon that performance the following year, due to injury and ineffectiveness. There were two DL stints, with strains to his back and groin, and he was removed from the Arizona rotation down the stretch, posting a starter’s ERA for the season of 5.46.

He pitched relief in both the Division and Championship Series, which made it a surprise when Bob Brenly went with Anderson to start Game 3 of the World Series in Yankee Stadium. The manager explained, “’It’s conventional wisdom that you’re better off pitching a lefty in that ballpark. hopefully neutralizes some of their left-handed hitters and keeps balls away from that short porch in right.” The decision worked well enough, Brian holding the Yankees to two runs over 5.1 innings. Unfortunately, Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera stifled the Diamondbacks’ offense, holding Arizona to just three hits. Below is Anderson’s recollection of that experience:

Here’s a curiosity: “Anderson was stuck sick in bed after going to ground zero, though he made it to the Diamondbacks city parade.” Hmm. Hopefully that doesn’t develop into anything. But weird ailments and incidents were almost Brian’s defining characteristic. His career also included all of the following:

  • During spring training, Anderson forgot his hat, spikes and glove, and had to visit a nearby Walmart, where he bought a softball glove for $29.95. He recalls, “It was awful. Of course, I got three comebackers to the mound, and I caught them all because my new glove was as big as a butterfly net.” He also had to black out the glove’s Wilson label, and Adidas stripes on the spikes, because he was endorsing Rawlings. “I had violated every part of my contract. The next spring, this lady comes up to me with a picture of me to sign. I’m halfway through my windup, and it’s a perfect shot of my blacked-out shoes and blacked-out glove.”
  • In July 1998, Anderson missed a start because of an injury he suffered “during a taxi ride he took to shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Anderson said he laid his pitching arm across the top of the back seat for the 20-minute cab ride and... felt some stiffness in his elbow.”
  • In 2003, he and team-mate Carl Sadler chased down and caught a purse thief who had stolen a purse in a restaurant across from their hotel. The pitchers took the thief back, returned the purse and held the perp for police. Said Anderson, “It was an instinctive thing. They picked the wrong restaurant with a couple of athletes who are on a losing streak.”
  • Anderson cut the middle finger on his pitching hand, while trying to remove a jammed atomizer plunger from a cologne bottle.
  • Most famously, he once burned his face ironing, while watching Sunday Night Baseball. “I picked up the iron, held it to my face to feel the heat and was trying to look around the corner (of the iron) to watch the game. I just put my cheek right on it. It didn’t take much, and it fried the side of my face. What are you going to do?”
  • Anderson sleepwalked, naked out of his hotel room at 4:30am. “I went down to the elevators looking for one of those house phones, but there was none. It was pure panic.” He used a newspaper to cover his... uh, embarrassment so he could snag a towel from the workout room and contact staff. He recalls, “I didn’t take the newspaper until I got off the elevator, so actually, on the elevator I was just in a corner, all hunched over, hoping that that door didn’t open up and somebody was getting on.”

His career after 2001 was rather less interesting. He went 6-11 with a 4.79 ERA in the final year as a Diamondback, before rebounding for a decent 2003 (14-11, 3.78) between Cleveland Kansas City. Brian signed a two-year deal with the Royals in December that season, but his MLB career ended in May 2005 with an elbow ligament tear. Tommy John surgery followed, and further injuries to the elbow deraied all comeback efforts. The pitcher retired after a third tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in March 2008, and is now a color commentator for the Rays.