La Russa has Abreu among White Sox greats

Slugger passes Hall of Famer Harold Baines on franchise home run list

August 15th, 2021

CHICAGO -- has established himself as one of the top players in White Sox history during his eighth season in Chicago.

But in Sunday’s pregame Zoom session, White Sox manager Tony La Russa took those Abreu plaudits one big step further.

“I think he’s one of the great players in Major League history because of the RBIs, the consistency of being a clutch run producer,” La Russa said. “He’s not a home run-or-nothing guy.

“He’ll get a single or double. But, yeah, I think he’s on that list with the best run producers, home run/RBI guys in the game’s history, and he’s still got a lot left.”

Abreu entered Sunday’s series finale with an 11-game hitting streak to go with homers in each of his last two games. Abreu connected with two outs in the ninth inning on Saturday night against Yankees reliever Chad Green for a game-tying home run as the culmination of an eight-pitch battle.

After making contact, Abreu clapped his hands as he ran out of the box, which is considered celebrating for the even-keeled leader. It also was a milestone blast for Abreu, who now ranks third in White Sox history with 222 home runs. He moved beyond Hall of Famer Harold Baines (221) and trails only Hall of Famer Frank Thomas (448) and Paul Konerko (432).

“I am happy for this new mark I just reached,” said Abreu in a statement from the White Sox. “It wasn’t something I ever imagined.

“But my hard work and my family support as well as the help of my teammates and the White Sox made this possible. I really feel humble seeing my name along or around a Hall of Famer like Harold Baines, who is a true gentleman, a great human being and a person that represents as well as anybody in the White Sox organization.”

Baines issued a statement congratulating Abreu for passing his home run total with the White Sox.

“It is very well earned and speaks to his impact on this organization,” Baines said. “As all of us know, José is a great person and a great baseball player. The respect is truly mutual.”

La Russa pointed to Abreu’s ability to consistently make adjustments against opposing pitchers and being able to use the whole field as keys to his success. He also stressed the significant toughness Abreu has shown throughout this 2021 campaign.

“He’s got blasted a few times … [The toughness] it’s off the charts,” La Russa said. “You add toughness to all that other stuff, and he’s a great player.”

“That’s all on him and something we admire,” said outfielder Luis Robert of Abreu, through interpreter Billy Russo. “He works very hard for all the success that he’s getting. He deserves all that.”

Hendriks ready for the save
The Yankees’ offense has not been kind to White Sox closer over the past two games, with Hendriks allowing seven runs (six earned) and three home runs over 1 1/3 innings. But La Russa knew his closer was ready to get right back in for the ninth by his clubhouse demeanor prior to Sunday's series finale.

“I walked through the clubhouse a couple of times and he's just drooling and salivating and hoping to get another chance today. Smoke coming out of his ears and nose,” La Russa said. “He's a very tough guy. He's proven it and he'll be ready.

“That will be a wonderful challenge. I hope with every breath I take that we all get a chance to see him with the lead in the ninth inning today.”

In addressing Hendriks’ struggles from “the corn game,” La Russa thought he was a little too amped up and got beyond himself. La Russa also looked to Hendriks not working in a save situation on Saturday, entering in a 4-4 tie, as part of the issue.

“It’s just a different mentality,” said La Russa, also pointing to Hendriks being used successfully in multi-inning saves, the usual one-run games and even with bigger leads this season.

Third to first
• The White Sox have been in first place for 102 days and every day since May 7, marking their most in one season since 2012 (126).

• Since June 30, the White Sox are No. 1 in the Majors with 67 home runs.

He said it
“The depth of our lineup is that Robert's hitting seventh the last three days. The depth means that every time we go to bat, we've got a chance to score. You take some of the really good lineups -- Dodgers, Astros, whoever you want to look at, Boston -- that's what they have. This is what we got.” -- La Russa