José Abreu finished each of his first six seasons in a White Sox uniform below .500.
But completely convinced of the fruit the team's rebuilding effort was about to yield, he made it known early and often how badly he wanted to return for 2020 and beyond.
For all his many accomplishments, he did something Thursday he had never done since arriving in the major leagues in 2014: He made the playoffs.
Abreu didn't speak to the media after the White Sox clinched the franchise's first playoff berth in a dozen years with a win over the Minnesota Twins, but he was a prime topic of conversation considering what he means to the team and what this team means to him.
"He's really happy. He said he finally made it," outfielder Eloy Jiménez said after the game. "He's really happy. I'm really happy to see that he works hard every single day and now he'll make his first appearance in the playoffs."
"I think if there's anybody in that room that I'm really, really happy for, in particular, it's Pito," manager Rick Renteria said. "He does represent the White Sox in the best way you can possibly represent the White Sox."
It makes perfect sense that Abreu was right in the middle of the winning effort Thursday. He got the White Sox on the board with his 17th home run of the season in the fourth inning. Then, with the White Sox trailing 3-2 in the seventh, he drove in the game-tying run when he legged out an infield single, allowing Jarrod Dyson to come home from third base.
Abreu, a big bopper, isn't the most obvious candidate to stretch out for an infield hit on a ground ball to the shortstop. But like he's done so many times during this MVP-caliber season, he put the White Sox on his back when they needed him most.
That kind of reliability in big moments surprises no one. The speed of "Wheels" Abreu down the first line? Perhaps a different story.
"That's our leader, that's our MVP. Hopefully at the end of the year, MVP across the American League," starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said Wednesday. "He just does it, man. ... I think that he's just all around an unbelievable player, and it's been a pleasure to watch what he's doing, this year especially."
Abreu's been an All Star, a Silver Slugger and the leader of losing White Sox teams for a long time. Now, he's playoff bound for the first time in his career. He could end up an MVP. But very true to his brand and the brand of this group of South Siders, the thing he wants to be more than anything is a world champion.
"I'm not a person who likes individual accolades or that stuff," he said, through team interpreter Billy Russo, at the beginning of the month. "For me, what matters is what we can do as a team. I'm looking for bigger things at the end of the season."