José Abreu has known for a long while what these White Sox were capable of.
"That was why I said last year that if the White Sox didn’t sign me, I would sign here either way," the first baseman said earlier this week.
A few more wins and a lot more home runs later, everyone's wising up to what Abreu already knew.
Individually, he's on a bit of a tear, hitting .362 with five homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.187 OPS in his last dozen games, during which the White Sox have gone 8-4. The bulk of those wins have come during the team's current six-game winning streak, which moved to a half dozen Friday night in a homerpalooza against the Crosstown-rival Cubs. Abreu hit two of the team's six long balls off Jon Lester and an assortment of relievers.
Abreu's faith and Rick Hahn's long-term planning are paying big dividends right now. Heading into Saturday, the White Sox were just a game out of first place in the AL Central standings, and an expanded American League playoff field will certainly help them as they try to chase down the franchise's first playoff berth in more than a decade.
While Abreu likes to preach the virtues of day-to-day work, he admitted Saturday that he, too, can see what's happening, that he's realizing the progress the team is making as it climbs out of rebuilding mode and into contending mode.
"There is not a team in the league that wouldn't like to have our offense," he said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I think we're one of the best offenses in the league, and every team would like to have an offense like we have right now. The results are just part of the talent that we have, the experience that the young guys are having and have already had, and just the good mix with veteran players, Edwin (Encarnación) and (Yasmani) Grandal and myself. That's part of the success that we're having and part of the success that I'm having, too, having those guys around me.
"I don't think right now you can say that there is a pitcher that would like to face us. I think right now every pitcher that has the task to face us, he knows that we can do damage from one to nine. It's not just because of me or the guys that I have around me, it's the whole offense, the whole team that we have.
"It is difficult because I am on the inside, and I always want more. But after every game, I try to analyze the game and identify the things that I may have done wrong or something that we as a team could have done better in that particular game or just finding ways for us to keep pushing and to keep that progression and that development as a team. ... I'm looking forward to seeing the strides that those guys are having right now."
Abreu spent his first six seasons with the White Sox playing for losing teams, never once finishing above .500 while he remained one of baseball's steadiest and most productive hitters. And so just as Rick Renteria is finally getting a chance to manage a team talented and capable enough to reach the postseason, Abreu is finally getting a chance to hit in the middle of a playoff-caliber lineup. The White Sox vaulted into the top spot in the American League in home runs after the half-dozen long balls Friday night. They rank third in baseball in OPS a season after ranking toward the bottom of the Junior Circuit in many offensive, and particularly power-hitting, categories.
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Abreu is thriving, too, with the idea that he has to do it all in this lineup a thing of the past. He can just hit while sharing the burden of run-producing across a lot more shoulders.
Bestowed with a new three-year contract over the offseason, Abreu isn't going anywhere any time soon, even if he is looked at as the veteran leader on this young squad. He'll be around as these youngsters get even better around him. He'll be around as the White Sox are even better equipped to contend for championships.
But he is in his seventh season with the White Sox. And that means he's continuing to put himself among the most accomplished hitters in franchise history. He's just a couple homers shy of moving into the top five on that specific franchise leader board. But asked about that upcoming accomplishment Saturday, his answer showed where his focus truly lies — and where it's been all along: on what the hitters now populating this lineup around him can do for the White Sox.
"That's a good thing to accomplish if I'm able to do it, because that's what you work for," he said. "If that happens, I don't know for how long that's going to last because we have Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada here.
"That probably won't last long."