It should come as no surprise, but even with the White Sox working through “the hardest part of the rebuild,” watching a couple young players struggle and owning the worst record in baseball, Jose Abreu has been his typically excellent self.
Abreu’s production is easy to take for granted because he’s been so unbelievably consistent at the plate during the entirety of his time in a White Sox uniform. After becoming the third player ever to hit 25 home runs and drive in 100 runs in each of his first four major league seasons — joining the amazing company of Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols — he’s well on his way to another one of those campaigns in 2018, even as the team around him experiences growing pains in this developmental season.
Abreu entered Sunday’s series finale with the Texas Rangers with a .306/.374/.531 slash line, and if the season ended today, those first two numbers would be the highest in their respective categories since his Rookie of the Year season in 2014. He leads the team in batting average and on-base percentage and ranks second in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.
It’s what the White Sox and their fans have come to expect from Abreu, who could be on his way to his first All-Star appearance since his rookie year.
“I think he’s just a mentally strong individual,” manager Rick Renteria said. “His routines are the same. He’s consistent. He doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. I think he personifies a man that understands the complexity of the length of a major league season and doesn’t allow little valleys and or highs to affect him too much. He knows that they come and go.
“As long as he continues to do what he does on a daily basis to get ready for a ballgame, he knows that when it’s all said and done it all levels out and he’ll be able to produce and give you opportunities to score some runs.”
Despite advancing age and a decision coming on Abreu’s contract, there’s little mystery as to why the White Sox would want to keep him around through the period when the rebuild reaches its apex and the contention window opens on the South Side. The numbers he puts up on an annual basis would keep him a middle-of-the-order bat, even in a lineup that featured Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo, not to mention the guy who’s locker is right next to Abreu’s, Yoan Moncada.
And that’s another big reason the White Sox would love to keep Abreu on the roster. He’s a key figure in the clubhouse, a mentor to Moncada, his fellow Cuban, and a leader for many of the team’s young players. Having Abreu around as an example to these young guys coming up would be invaluable in helping the White Sox develop their organizational identity.
“I think he’s got enough time in here and he’s had enough success and based on the way he carries himself in the clubhouse and his daily work, I think people watch him by example and as he’s been here for a while I think he’s able to communicate with a lot of the guys,” Renteria said. “I think they trust him. I think it’s one of those things that just evolves. I think he’s been evolving into that type of leader. He’s a quiet leader, but when he has something to say, everybody listens.”
Abreu might not be a loud, vocal force like Yolmer Sanchez is inside and outside the clubhouse, but his comments about the young team around him and the rebuilding season show his outlook and his status as a veteran leader of this group.
“I think everybody knows and understands the process that we’re passing through,” Abreu said through a translator after Saturday’s win, in which he homered and extended his hit streak to 10 games, “but when you can win games like tonight it’s huge because you are letting them know, the young guys, how it is to win games and how it is to compete and to play good baseball and to have confidence with the things that you’re doing. It’s good, every victory, every win is good for us. It doesn’t matter how the score is, every game that we can win is good, it’s huge for us.
“Ricky is giving them the opportunity to play and to show that they can do and the confidence for them to show their talent. We are all excited to see what they can do and how they can help us. I think that we all belong at this level, and for us it’s an exciting moment for what all these young guys can offer.
“They all like to work. They all like to prepare, like to do their job, to show on the field what they are capable of, and I think that for me that’s something that let’s me know that they are trying to do their best, and they are trying to stay here and to help this team win games. That’s also what the front office is taking from them too, when you see the guys who are doing all the things that they ask for, and then sometimes they’re gonna rough days, but when you see that effort, you’re very glad and you’re happy because everybody is trying to do their best.”
The White Sox will have to make a decision on Abreu eventually, as he’s only under team control for one more season after the current one. But he’s voiced a desire to stay on the South Side, and it’s easy for the White Sox to forecast what they’ll get from Abreu, even as he continues to get older.
This guy’s as consistent as they come, on and off the field.