José Abreu is to the American League what he's long been to the White Sox: the Most Valuable Player.
Abreu was announced as the AL MVP on Thursday night, the Baseball Writers' Association of America voting the White Sox first baseman the team's first league-wide MVP since Frank Thomas won the award for the second consecutive season in 1994. Abreu bested other finalists José Ramírez of the Cleveland Indians and DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees in the vote, which saw teammate Tim Anderson finish seventh. White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel received one 10th-place vote.
"Most valuable" is exactly how the White Sox have described Abreu for years now as he's matched consistently All-Star caliber production at the plate with an off-the-field work ethic that has served as a model for young players. He's mentored the team's fleet of young stars in the making, taking them under his wing and showing them how to follow in his own hard-working footsteps.
While he's long been a consistent producer at the plate — ever since arriving from Cuba ahead of the 2014 campaign — 2020 was a career year for Abreu, as he played for a winning team for the first time in his seven seasons on the South Side. Abreu delivered in the biggest moments on a nearly nightly basis. And it showed up in the numbers. He led the Junior Circuit with 76 hits, 60 RBIs and a .617 slugging percentage; ranked second with 19 home runs; third with 43 runs scored; fourth with a .317 batting average; fifth with a .987 OPS; and in the top 10 with 15 doubles and a .370 on-base percentage.
While those numbers surely mattered a great deal to voters, they didn't matter much to Abreu, at least not as much as his first career postseason appearance did. After spending six losing seasons in a White Sox uniform, Abreu's faith in the team's rebuilding effort paid off. He was so confident in the team's bright future, he spent the 2019 season saying that if the White Sox didn't re-sign him when he hit free agency at the end of the year that he would re-sign himself. He got a new three-year deal.
And that love Abreu showed the White Sox is mutual. It won't be surprising to see Abreu's No. 79 one day retired at Guaranteed Rate Field, nor to see an Abreu statue one day gracing the outfield concourse.
Of course, Abreu wants something more: a championship.
And though there were questions about what his production would look like as he grows older, he proved in 2020 that he's as big a part of the White Sox championship expectations as anyone. As the team enters a win-now season in 2021, they'll do so with the reigning MVP in the middle of the order.
Just where he's been for the past seven years and exactly where he wants to be.
"Hopefully, I’m going to end my career as a White Sox. That’s my desire," he said during the season. "And I’m going to end my career on a good note, winning championships."