CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu sat behind a table at the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center Monday night, looking as calm, cool and focused as he did with pretty much every at-bat or moment in the field that he had for the White Sox during the 2014 campaign.A few
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu sat behind a table at the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center Monday night, looking as calm, cool and focused as he did with pretty much every at-bat or moment in the field that he had for the White Sox during the 2014 campaign.
A few broad smiles and a few moments of laughter were the only true signs of Abreu's joy in being unanimously named the Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year, as voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Abreu completed the trifecta of 2014 AL rookie honors, having previously been anointed by Sporting News and Players Choice in voting by his peers.
When asked about the emotions attached to becoming the ninth unanimous winner in the history of the AL award, Abreu flashed one of those smiles and quickly pointed out that appearances can be deceiving.
"Even though it doesn't show in my face, inside I'm really, really happy," said Abreu through translator and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Hector Molina. "I want to thank the White Sox for giving me the opportunity to be here."
"I want to congratulate Jose on this prestigious award and his spectacular rookie season," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, who was in Arizona for the General Managers Meetings and issued his statement through a team press release. "From the day Jose joined the White Sox, we were optimistic that he would develop into an integral part of our success and a centerpiece in our lineup for years to come."
Abreu received all 30 first-place votes to finish ahead of Angels starter Matt Shoemaker and Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, becoming the first White Sox rookie to win the BBWAA honor since shortstop Ozzie Guillen in 1985. The first baseman also took home the Louisville Silver Slugger Award at his position, joining Jose Canseco (four times), Rafael Palmeiro (twice) and teammate Alexei Ramirez (twice, including this past season) as the only native Cubans to be named Silver Sluggers.
Miami's Jose Fernandez (2013), Oakland's Canseco (1986) and Minnesota's Tony Oliva (1964) join Abreu as the only Cuban natives to win Rookie of the Year. The 27-year-old free-agent signee (six years for $68 million) hit .317 with 176 hits, 35 doubles, 36 home runs, 107 RBIs, a .581 slugging percentage and a .383 on-base percentage over 145 games during the 2014 campaign. His 36 homers set a new single-season rookie franchise record, beating out Ron Kittle's 35 from 1983.
His slugging percentage led the Majors, as Abreu joined Dick Allen (1974) as the only players in White Sox history to accomplish that feat. He ranked among AL leaders with his .964 OPS (second), his 323 total bases (second) and his 73 extra-base hits (fourth), as well as with his homers (tied for third), RBIs (fourth), average (fifth), OBP (fifth) and doubles (T-10th). Abreu became the first rookie in baseball history to rank among the top five in his league in each Triple Crown category, and he joined Hal Trosky (1934), Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001) as the only rookies to record at least 30 doubles, 30 homers and 100 RBIs in a season.
Those 107 RBIs represented the third-highest total all-time by a White Sox rookie, trailing Smead Jolley (114 in 1930) and Zeke Bonura (110 in 1934). Abreu topped all AL rookies in hits, doubles, homers, RBIs, OBP, slugging and OPS, falling second to Minnesota's Danny Santana (.319) in rookie average.
According to White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson, Abreu's ability to minimize slumps stood out as one of his most impressive traits.
"He's got a lot of self-confidence -- obviously he doesn't speak a whole lot of English -- but you can see it exude out of his body and through his eyes," said Steverson during a conference call this past Friday. "And as you watch through the course of the game taking his at-bats and when he comes back after potentially getting out, you can see that his want factor is very high.
"So I understand it. He's not the prototypical rookie in terms of age and experience, but playing in the big leagues, which is the best stage on Earth, he proved he can do just fine."
Kittle ('83), Tommie Agee ('66), Gary Peters ('63) and Luis Aparicio ('56) join Abreu and Guillen as White Sox rookie winners in BBWAA voting. Abreu clearly remembers his first game, when he doubled to right against Minnesota's Ricky Nolasco to open the second inning at a chilly U.S. Cellular Field on March 31. It was the first of many moments confirming Abreu's belief that he could succeed as a Major Leaguer.
That original belief came when Abreu played for Cuba in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. But he certainly didn't envision a debut season as great as '14 or a moment as great as Monday.
"I'm very happy about winning. I dedicate it to the White Sox, my family and the Chicago fans," Abreu said. "Everybody on the coaching staff, they all treated me great and helped me a lot to get this Rookie of the Year I have today."
"The speed in which he was able to deliver on his promise is truly remarkable, as his performance this season left no doubt he is among the premiere hitters in all of baseball," Hahn said. "I join all White Sox fans in being extremely excited to see what the future holds for Jose as he continues to improve and develop as one of the cornerstones of our team."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin.