HOUSTON -- José Abreu had nothing but strong support for Tony La Russa when asked prior to the White Sox game Sunday night about recent criticism aimed at his manager.
“It’s easy to blame the manager when things aren’t going right, but at the end of the day, it’s on us,” said Abreu, through interpreter Billy Russo, during a 17-minute session with the media before the White Sox faced the Astros. “We are the ones who are performing on the field. The responsibility has to be on us. It’s easy to say whatever you want to say, or the critics will say whatever about the manager.
“But they are not here. They are not in the clubhouse. They don’t know how united or how good we are. Everybody knows we’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries. People don’t know how you have to overcome those situations and being able to play every day. They don’t know that. In order for them to blame Tony, that’s easy. But they don’t know how good we are in the clubhouse.”
A follow-up question was asked about what makes La Russa the right fit as White Sox manager at this point.
“He’s a good person, a good manager. He respects the game. He respects his players,” Abreu said. “I can’t tell you he’s the best manager because I have to be respectful with the other two managers I played for, Robin [Ventura] and Rick [Renteria].
“I can tell you as a person, as a leader, he’s all that you can ask for in a manager. I’m glad that he’s our manager. … We all support Tony because we all know at the end of the day it’s our responsibility to perform the way we can perform on the field. It’s not his responsibility.”
Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, offered up past praise to Ventura and Renteria, who as the first baseman mentioned, join La Russa as his three managers over nine history-ladened seasons with the White Sox. Abreu has not been shy in speaking up when he sees something needing to be changed on the field or in the clubhouse with this team.
Much of that conversation comes privately for Abreu, which is one of the many ways in which he shows leadership. He has been behind La Russa since the outset of the Hall of Fame manager’s second tenure with the team and hasn’t wavered during the team’s slow start. The White Sox were 31-32 entering Sunday, third place in the American League Central.
La Russa has not backed down in the face of criticism. He appreciated Abreu’s comments in the context of what he needs to do on the job.
“You have to please the people that hired you and you have to please the fans who pay to watch your team play,” La Russa said. “But in the end, the opinion that means the most are the guys in the clubhouse.
“If they quit playing for you, I leave. I have a lot of respect and admiration for this team -- even in games we’ve lost, in games we’ve been short. We’ve made mistakes and all that stuff, but to hear – now, there are 24 or 25 other guys who may not share that opinion -- I’ll take him, though.”