Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

White Sox News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

Abreu: Postseason berth 'filled me with joy'

@scottmerkin
September 18, 2020

José Abreu vowed at the end of the 2019 season that he would return to the White Sox for '20 and beyond. Even with free agency looming in the offseason. Even if he had to sign himself back, Abreu often joked -- and in the process, probably lowered his negotiating

José Abreu vowed at the end of the 2019 season that he would return to the White Sox for '20 and beyond.

Even with free agency looming in the offseason. Even if he had to sign himself back, Abreu often joked -- and in the process, probably lowered his negotiating power a bit. But Abreu didn’t care.

The White Sox first baseman and unofficial captain knew the success ahead for the White Sox and wanted to play a significant role in it. Abreu’s dedication to Chicago was validated Thursday, when the club clinched its first playoff berth since 2008.

“I knew all the way through that this would happen,” said Abreu, making his first post-postseason-clinching comments through interpreter Billy Russo during a Zoom session ahead of Friday's 7-1 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati. “I didn’t have any doubt in my mind, because I knew what we’ve been building during the last couple of years. And I knew that this year we would be in a very good position to compete and to show the people that we have the pieces that are here to contend and to be a very good team for a long time.

“It was an incredible moment. Indescribable for me. When something like this happens and you see all the work that you put in and all the sacrifices, all that this team has done to get to this point, all the losses, all the suffering the last couple of years and to get to this moment and to have that sweetness is good. It’s something that definitely makes you feel very good, excited. It was something that really moved me and motivated me and really filled me with joy.”

Thursday was a special day outside of baseball for Abreu, as his eldest son, Dariel Eduardo, turned 10. Dariel’s dad provided a special birthday gift by hitting a home run off Minnesota’s Kenta Maeda in the fourth and then beating out an infield grounder with two down in the seventh to bring home the tying run and set up Eloy Jiménez’s game-winning double in the 4-3 victory.

Abreu has a hit in 28 of his past 30 games and leads MLB with 51 RBIs. His 17 home runs rank second in the Majors and his .327 average sits fourth in the American League, but general manager Rick Hahn believes Abreu’s value goes well beyond the exceptional work done with his bat.

“One area that’s overlooked, given the offensive production, is how strong he’s been defensively,” said Hahn during his Friday Zoom session. “He’s very much a legitimate candidate for a Gold Glove, much less the Silver Slugger and MVP talk. It’s not going to shock you guys he was going to improve in that area and came to camp focused on getting better there.

“Not only have we seen it in our eyes, but it has shown up in the objective evaluations in his defensive performance this year. That’s probably the one element of his game that we hadn’t seen previously at sort of this elite level like we have this year.”

All of these numbers place Abreu as one of the AL Most Valuable Player Award favorites, along with teammate Tim Anderson, among the handful of elite candidates. But Abreu presented a poignant family-based response when asked about MVP thoughts, after first stating he was humbled by the positive sentiments shared about him by his teammates.

“There are a lot of people rooting for me, and I appreciate that,” Abreu said. “But for me, what’s important is that I am my mom’s MVP every single day. And that’s what matters for me. Because she’s everything in my world.

“Whatever happens is going to happen. Like I said, for me what matters is what I can do for this team and I know that my mom is very happy and glad and proud of me, and that’s all that I can ask.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.