José Abreu is the leader of this White Sox team. And while the fan base remains divided over the team's decision to hire Tony La Russa as its new manager, the clubhouse leader has spoken.
"He can count on me," the newly crowned American League MVP said Friday morning.
Much like he did Thursday night, in the moments after being overcome with emotion upon hearing he'd won the game's top individual single-season honor, Abreu voiced his love for former White Sox manager Rick Renteria while simultaneously expressing his excitement to play for La Russa, a Hall of Famer with the third most wins in baseball history.
Friday, though, Abreu revealed that he talked with La Russa for the first time Thursday morning, when he offered his support to the new South Side skipper tasked with doing what Abreu's long dreamed of: leading the White Sox to a World Series championship.
"Yesterday morning, I had the chance to talk with Tony. He called me, and it was the first time I talked with him," Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I just welcomed him. I told him I would support him and that I will have his back. It was a short conversation, but it was a good one.
"We reached the postseason this year, but that is not enough. We can do better."
The White Sox moved on from Renteria with championship expectations in mind, searching for a manager who had experience leading teams to a title. While La Russa isn't where general manager Rick Hahn thought the team's search would end, there's no doubting that La Russa fits that bill. He's won three World Series as a manager, with the Oakland Athletics in 1989 and with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 and 2011.
And if that resume alone wasn't enough to get Abreu excited, then the stamp of approval from another MVP did the job.
"La Russa has been one of the greatest managers in the history of the sport," Abreu said. "That's something that you have to respect. I think we're going to do good with him.
"When we hired him, I reached out to Albert Pujols, and I asked him about La Russa because La Russa was his manager during his time in St. Louis. And Pujols just told me that he was a great manager, an outstanding person, a manager that I would like to play for. And I'm just looking forward to it."
It's clear that Abreu has a special place in his heart for Renteria, calling him "a friend" and "a father" Friday.
But the MVP has made his No. 1 professional goal clear: He wants to win a championship with the White Sox. The team has made the decision that La Russa gives it the best chance to make that happen. And so Abreu is on board.
"I'm really thankful with Rick Renteria, with the coaching staff, because they helped us a lot. They helped us to make the playoffs last year. They helped us to get to this point," he said. "At the same time, I'm just glad to have a manager like Tony La Russa.
"Like I told him yesterday: He can count on me. As a player, that's what we can do for a manager, just play hard and respect him. We'll see how things go once the season starts."