Abreu overcome by emotion after MVP win

November 13th, 2020

CHICAGO -- For 75 seconds after hearing his name announced as the 2020 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner on Thursday night, leaned forward in his chair with his head turned down in a state of pure elation.

His family and friends congratulated the White Sox first baseman with various pats on the back and hugs. They started a brief chant of “M-V-P” and the MLB Network hosts even began to ask questions. But at that moment, this great success story was almost too much for Abreu to process.

“You can dream about it,” Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo on the broadcast. “You can’t imagine the feeling."

“I was super excited to share that moment with my family, with the people that I love,” Abreu added during the ensuing MVP Award conference call. “And [I'm] just grateful to be able to be honored with this award. You should enjoy what life gives you, and that was a very special moment for me. To be able to share that moment with my family was very emotional and special for me.”

Abreu finished with 374 total points, including 21 first-place votes, eight second-place votes and one third-place vote. He is the fourth White Sox player to win MVP honors, joining Frank Thomas (1993-94), Dick Allen ('72) and Nellie Fox ('59). He’s the third Cuban-born player to win the MVP along with Zoilo Versalles ('65) and Jose Canseco ('88).

It’s arguably Abreu’s best season of a stellar seven-year-career with the White Sox, along with his first winning season and playoff appearance, even if it was an abbreviated 60-game campaign. It also was a bit of a proving ground for the 33-year-old, who came to Spring Training in the best shape of his life after agreeing to a three-year, $50 million free-agent deal to stay in Chicago on Nov. 22, 2019.

Abreu's 60 RBIs over 60 games led the AL for a second consecutive season. He finished second with 19 home runs and fourth with a .317 batting average. He also ranked fifth with a .987 OPS and was the only AL player to rank in the Top 5 in hits (76, first), RBIs, slugging percentage (.617, first), extra-base hits (34, first), total bases (148, first), home runs, average and OPS.

There were a few times in-season where Abreu spoke of answering those who didn’t believe a multi-year deal at this point was the right move. Thursday’s award was the ultimate comment regarding that particular conversation.

“For me, it was about taking care of things that I could take care of. And having the support of the people that I love, the people that are around me, it was enough,” Abreu said. “It was enough to move forward and to be able to not pay attention to all those things. At the end of the day, what matters for me is that I live my life in peace with myself."

Although Abreu was not a Gold Glove Award finalist at his position, his defense was noticeably improved at first base this season. His value, however, went well beyond his most impressive numbers. Abreu is the leader of the White Sox, a guiding force for young players Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson and Luis Robert.

Abreu was in the lineup every day, driving in big runs and setting the tone for victory this past season with efforts such as his three-homer game against the Cubs on Aug. 22 at Wrigley Field. He also drove in 17 runs in eight games from Aug. 18-26. He leads primarily by example, a hard-working leadership not unnoticed by his teammates.

“He approaches the game every day to get better and to go out to be the best player ever,” said Anderson, who finished seventh in the MVP Award voting with one third-place vote. “We just fall in line, and he’s rubbing off, and it’s paying off as well.”

“He’s the leader. That’s the best that I can say. The best word I can use to describe him,” Jiménez said. “He’s been so consistent his whole career that it’s exciting for us to see all the recognition he’s getting right now because he deserves it.”

Praise and thanks was doled out by Abreu to many who have influenced his career, including first manager Robin Ventura, former teammates Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks and Adam Dunn, his current teammates and of course, manager Rick Renteria, who parted ways with the White Sox after the 2020 season. Abreu was “honored” to be part of teams managed by Renteria, but also is “excited” to play for new manager Tony La Russa.

“You have to wait and see how this goes,” Abreu said.

After winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2014, Abreu became the 28th player to win an MVP and ROY Award in his career (joining Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki). It was a special night for a special player, one Abreu dedicated to his mother, Daysi, who has a special influence on his life.

“My mom. That's the meaning of this award, my mom,” Abreu said. “She's the biggest thing that ever happened to me, and she's why I do every single thing every day. She's my motivation. I respect who she is because it's because of her that I am who I am. She’s super proud, even more prouder than me.”