Over the next few weeks, BP South Side will be reviewing the performance of all 51 players who suited up for the 2017 White Sox. Players whose seasons were particularly noteworthy will get their own standalone article, while smaller contributors or those who were traded/cut will be grouped together. We’ll do our best to summarize and analyze what each player brought to this year’s club, what we learned, didn’t learn, and what it all means for his future with the team.
Appreciating Jose Abreu has gotten a lot easier.
It was always easy, of course, but during the four seasons he’s spent in Chicago it felt, at times, like we took him for granted.
Maybe it’s his own fault, though. His incredible rookie season in 2014 allowed us to place expectations on him that almost weren’t fair. The next two seasons seemed downright pedestrian by comparison, and the continued failings of the team as a whole left us wanting. Dominance by fellow stars Chris Sale and Jose Quintana were easier to appreciate. A pitcher takes the ball every fifth day and stands alone in the spotlight. Abreu’s consistently solid production at the plate, particularly amid the miserable team play we’ve become so accustomed to of late, just became something we expected, and thus, it didn’t always warrant our full attention. There were so many other things for us to focus on, like the failings of his lineup-mates or the excellence of the aforementioned starting pitcher duo.
This year was different. Or at least it seemed different. There was plenty to focus on, of course, as despite another losing season the White Sox unveiled a good number of shiny new toys, and Avisail Garcia’s surprising season garnered quite a bit of the spotlight. But amid all that was Abreu, the last vestige of that cost-controlled core the White Sox were unable to build around. All he did was put up the best offensive numbers since that historic rookie season, all while taking it upon him to play the role of mentor to the bevy of young players finding their way at the major league level.
The best example of this came on August 17 in Arlington. Reynaldo Lopez was making his second major league start and in the fifth inning appeared to be suffering a bit of discomfort. Rick Renteria and Herm Schneider came out to the mound to check on their young starter and asked him if his arm was hurting. Lopez responded that his arm was fine, Renteria and Schneider were content and began heading back to the dugout. Abreu pressed Lopez further, however, and learned the 23 year old was experiencing pain on his side. “Don’t be a hero,” Abreu told Lopez, and then yelled for Renteria and Schneider to come back.
“First and foremost, we have to highlight he wanted to pitch through the pain,” Abreu said through a team interpreter. “But when Ricky left, I asked him, ‘Hey, are you sure you’re feeling good?’ Because I think with that kind of talent, you can’t mess around. You have to take care of these kids, especially if you are thinking of the future. He told me his right side was sore, and then at that moment, I decided to call Ricky back to let him know.”
Oh, and Abreu went 2-for-5 with a home run in that game, too.
There’s going to be plenty of chatter this offseason once again about Abreu’s future with the team. He’s under team control through 2019, but will also be 31 at the start of next season, and Rick Hahn offered no hints regarding the team’s plan for Abreu when asked before Sunday’s season finale. That’s not surprising, but as the White Sox creep toward their next contention window, wherever that may be, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see Abreu continue to do what we’ve come to expect out of him as the White Sox grow slowly into contenders.
Lead Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Images