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Season On The Edge Has Glorious Ending

Dan Bickley

The Arizona Republic

Oct. 4, 1999

Deep inside the big victory is a small victory. Brian Anderson's victory. A story of perseverance and reward.

On Sunday, Anderson earned the win in the Diamondbacks' record-setting 100th victory, all but assuring himself the fourth spot in the playoff rotation. He completed an amazing journey, leaving with the promise of another journey to come.

And as he walked up the tunnel toward the clubhouse, the enormous twist in fortune began to sink in.

It was just three months ago when Anderson stood in the same tunnel, his stomach tied in knots. A man watching his career slip away. And the harder he squeezed, the more elusive it became.

"There were starts where I would literally be in that tunnel giving a little dry heave," Anderson said. "I was so nervous I was ready to gag. I put so much pressure on myself that I couldn't even function. And it showed in my pitching."

Now, with a late surge, Anderson has made Andy Benes irrelevant. Anderson has won his last six starts, his finest stretch of pitching "since playing Legion ball in 1990." After a year full of adversity, it is Anderson who emerges as a champion.

"Not many players have been on a roller coaster like this," Anderson said.

The year started so ominously. The day before he got married, Anderson was sitting on an exit ramp in Cleveland when a car barreled into his vehicle from behind. That day, the affable pitcher was aided by an air bag. But there was no cushion for the upcoming fall:

Constant trade rumors. A demotion to the bullpen. A terrible adjustment to the role of reliever. An ERA that required a telescope. And, of course, the day he was shipped back to the minor leagues.

When Anderson returned to the Diamondbacks in May, things got worse.

"I was aiming every pitch," he said. "I was convinced that my next start might be my last. I thought I might get sent back to the minors. It was horrible."

One day, he called home for parental guidance. Anderson listened to his family, and put his career inside his religious faith. He vowed to his parents that he wouldn't look at his statistics for the rest of the season.

"I was just so tired, so drained of waking up every day worrying about all of this," Anderson said. "I put it all in His hands."

Almost on cue, Anderson began to pitch well. Now, he's almost untouchable. And while Manager Buck Showalter claimed he has still not made a decision on his fourth starter, here's a little clue: After five innings of work, Anderson went to the bullpen to bulk up on his pitch count. Strong evidence that Showalter has chosen Anderson as his No. 4 starter. That he has made the right call.

There is strong irony in this race of candidates. After losing to Chicago on June 7, Anderson's ERA was 9.31. In the clubhouse after the game, Benes quipped that Anderson would not be winning the ERA title.

Anderson finished the year with a 4.57 ERA. Better than Benes, who finished at 4.81.

At the start of the season, it was Anderson who was on his way out of town. Now, it's Benes who may be leaving Arizona.

And as the season progressed, Anderson never once complained about his plight, treating his failures and his diminished role with class and dignity.

On the other hand, Benes has gone into a curious shell. After his last start, he refused to take questions from reporters. While his teammates spoke to a crowd of 8,000 people on the night of the division-clinching celebration outside BOB, Benes -- the man who made the first start in team history -- never approached the microphone.

That contrast is all you need to know about this competition. And along with the statistics, it is why Anderson deserves the ball in a potential Game 4.

On Sunday, the regular season closed, a season full of wild contributions from everyone. But no one finished like Anderson.

A man who persevered. A man who prevailed.

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