José Abreu has accomplished a lot in seven seasons with the White Sox. He won Rookie of the Year in 2014, and he became the third player in MLB history to start his career with four-straight seasons hitting 25+ home runs and 100+ RBI. He’s won several Player of the Week and Player of the Month awards, and he made history this season with two White Sox home run records: one for hitting six homers in a series, the other for hitting a homer in four-straight at-bats. Now he’s finally set to make his first postseason appearance. But the most impressive individual accolade was never a real consideration for Abreu, until now.
After he led the White Sox in a 14-0 walloping of the Tigers, Abreu should be seriously considered the front runner for the A.L. MVP award. Not only did Abreu open the scoring for the Sox in the first inning with an RBI single, he drove two nails in the coffin with a pair of bombs that put the Sox up 8-0, and then 12-0. He finished his night 4-4, with 7 RBI, 5 R and a walk to boot.
On the season, Abreu leads the A.L. with 47 RBI and 59 hits in only 45 games. His 15 homers only trail Mike Trout and Luke Voit by one, and his .991 OPS ranks fourth in the league. If you want to dig into the deeper stats, his 2.0 WAR only trails teammate Luis Robert’s 2.1 mark.
“He’s having an incredible season,” said Reynaldo López following Saturday’s victory. “I’m just glad that he’s on our team, because I can’t imagine how difficult it is for the other pitchers to face him.”
But beyond the incredible production on the field, Abreu truly embodies the full meaning of “Most Valuable Player” for the White Sox. As a mentor for the White Sox young talent, Abreu has been invaluable.
When the White Sox first called up Yoán Moncada to the big leagues, it was Abreu who went to pick him up from the airport. In Luis Robert’s first Spring Training, Abreu wasted no time getting in the cages with him. At the end of last season, when it was still unclear whether or not the White Sox would even bring Abreu back, his teammates told reporters just how important he was to all of their development.
“He has taught me a lot, on and off the field,” Moncada said through team translator Billy Russo. “That’s something that I will be always thankful for him because he’s been a mentor for me, and I appreciate that.”
“For me, it’s been like a father,” Eloy Jiménez said. “He gives me advice, he always tries to help me. And when you find people like that, you don’t know how to explain how great of people they are.”
“The impact that I don’t think he really knows that he has is how hard of a worker he is,” said James McCann. “He’s a superstar. He’s a three-time All Star, he puts up unreal numbers, he’s setting organizational records. But you wouldn’t know that based on the way that he acts, the way that he goes about his business, the way that he works. He’s the first one in the cage, he’s in the weight room every day, he leads by example.
“So for me, the impact that he has is when a young kid shows up there and thinks he’s made it and then looks at this guy over here who’s busting his tail day in and day out. That’s only a good thing. It helps the culture. It helps the clubhouse realize, ‘Hey, we’ve still got to work.’”
That culture that Abreu helped cultivate is finally starting to pay off for the White Sox, as they sit atop the A.L. Central with a 29-16 record. They’re gearing up for their first postseason berth since 2008 and they couldn’t have made it this far without his leadership in the clubhouse, or his production on the field.
Value like that is hard to come by.