Most. Valuable. Player.
Few were surprised that José Abreu did what no White Sox player had done since Frank Thomas in 1994. The big-hitting first baseman had the best offensive season of any player in the American League. His MVP candidacy got an early hashtag, #MVPito. He let the home-run balls he sent soaring out of Guaranteed Rate Field — and one clutch hit after another en route to his first career playoff appearance — do the talking.
While those who cast MVP votes typically look at production, the word “valuable” takes on an even greater meaning when it comes to Abreu, someone who experienced every second of the White Sox rebuilding project, got giddy at the thought of playing alongside the talented youngsters that now surround him in the lineup and went to work not just preparing himself to be the best player he could be but grooming his teammates to follow in his footsteps as big league stars.
But as much as Abreu’s work has always spoken for itself, there was still plenty of talking that went on.
His teammates, his coaches, his manager, his general manager and, yes, even the man himself, sometimes, spent the year speaking to the kind of player — and the kind of person — Abreu is.
So now that he’s officially the MVP, here are the White Sox describing just how valuable the league’s most valuable player really was during the 2020 season — and how valuable he continues to be for this team.
Dallas Keuchel, starting pitcher: “This new game of baseball that we are witnessing, if you do it for so long, you kind of just get pushed aside because everybody likes the new toys, the new young guys that come in the league and are so fascinated with how young these guys are and how good they are. He’s a 30 (home runs) and 100 (RBIs) guy every year. He just goes under the radar every year. He’s the backbone of this team, and he will be for the foreseeable future.”
Tim Anderson, shortstop: “The most consistent hitter there is.”
Joe McEwing, bench coach: “If I had five hours, I would talk about José Abreu. It’s not what he’s done this year, it’s what he’s done throughout his career. He’s one of the most underrated players in this game. He’s a true professional, he’s amazing in that clubhouse and comes up with clutch hits time and time again. What he means to that locker room and what he produces on the field on a daily basis, this is an individual who should win, maybe I am biased, but should win the MVP and a Gold Glove.”
Rick Renteria, former manager: “He is one of the most underrated guys in Chicago. He shouldn’t be. He has earned it. He earns everything he gets.”
Abreu, after hitting three home runs in one game against the Cubs: “I was a little emotional today because to hear people say a lot of things about you, people who doubt you or maybe don’t believe in you, I’m just proving them wrong. Sometimes it gets to you. Today was one of those moments.
“After last season, there were a lot of people that didn't think I was able to do what I'm doing right now. That because I'm 33 years old, I didn't, I wouldn't have enough to do the things that I was doing or do the things I'm doing right now. It was one of those moments where it did get to me. I told myself after the offseason, ‘I'm going to prove them wrong, I'm going to keep working hard, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing to have success.’ That's it. That's what I'm doing right now.”
Renteria: "Imagine being on the club for a lot of years and having to try to carry everything and how that might create — though he may not say it — even more added pressure to be the guy that does it all. And then when you have a lot of guys that can pick you up ... in the lineup, it frees you up a little bit. … Not that he couldn't do it before. He's obviously done it. … He's done it under what I consider difficult circumstances, to be honest. Now you've got situations where he's got a lot of guys that are supporting him in a tremendously positive fashion on the offensive side, and it just looks like a lot of fun.”
Abreu: “That was why I said last year that if the White Sox didn’t sign me, I would sign here either way. You see all the talent that we have, and you see those guys and what they are doing. We are an inch closer to being a really, really good and competitive team. It’s a good time for us to do what we are doing right now.”
Lucas Giolito, starting pitcher: "That's our leader, man. That's the heart and soul of this team. I think that he loves those (clutch) situations. He thrives in those situations. Obviously, he works a good at-bat, drives a ball in the gap. That's just Pito doing Pito right there. He is an amazing guy, amazing player. It's an honor to be teammates with him and to be able to watch him work every day."
Eloy Jiménez, left fielder: “What can I say? Abreu is one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen. He’s a super clutch hitter. Every time he’s at the plate, I learn something. He tries to show us something to learn every night, every at-bat.”
James McCann, catcher: "He's special. He's very special. The things that he's doing at the plate right now, it's one of those things that you just kind of sit back and enjoy because it doesn't happen (often). The way that he's been able to spray the ball all over the field and consistently get hits — and big hits, too, not just hits but big hits — it's special. These are memories that being able to watch as a fan, being a teammate but being a fan at the same time, you don't forget stuff like that."
Leury García, utility man: “Unbelievable. Oh man. This guy, oh my god. Abreu, he works for it. Abreu is one of those guys, he’s always working, always trying to find a way to get better. You can see this year, he was like from Day 1 to here, the work done, you can see the results. He’s a man.”
Adam Engel, outfielder: “We were talking last night. Pito was up, (runners at) first and third, me and Tim were sitting next to each other in the dugout and were like, 'This guy is going to drive in this run. This guy's an RBI machine.' And just going on and on about he could be up there with one leg and eight fingers and he'll find a way to drive in a run. He's just an animal.”
Rick Hahn, general manager: “One area that’s overlooked, given the offensive production, is how strong he’s been defensively. He’s very much a legitimate candidate for a Gold Glove, much less the Silver Slugger and MVP talk. ... He was aware he could improve in that area and came to camp focused on making himself better there.”
Abreu: “I’ve been having that chip on my shoulder about my defense. People say I’m not a good defender, but that’s not the case. I take a lot of pride in my defense. I work hard on my defense. I try to improve every day on my defense and do better in that aspect of the game. I’ve been able to do that. I’ve been able to do that because of all the work I’ve been doing with Super Joe. He’s been outstanding with me. He has a lot of knowledge, and it has helped me a lot. I think it’s just the combination of those two facts: all the effort I put on my defense every day and just the work Super Joe has done with me.”
Jiménez: “He feels like a dad. He’s been there for us every single day, no matter what, no matter how he feels. It’s really good to have a teammate like that.”
Anderson, after Abreu joined him, then the team’s only Black American player, in kneeling during the national anthem to protest the police killings of Black Americans: “Abreu came to me before the game, and he just said he was in my corner and he was going to support me, he got me. Just spreading love when needed. It says a lot to show that much love at a moment like that.”
Abreu, upon winning a Silver Slugger alongside Anderson and Jiménez: “I am very happy to win the Silver Slugger Award, but I am happier of winning it this year along with Tim Anderson and Eloy Jiménez. I am happier for them because I’ve seen them grow and develop. I feel like a proud father.”
Luis Robert, center fielder: “He knows the talent I have, and he’s always trying to push me to get better, to do more, to take advantage of that talent. That has been important. … Just be focused for what’s next or what I can do better. That has been the biggest lesson that he has given me. He still does. It’s a constant advice he gives me every day. He’s by my side every day trying to make me better.”
Andrew Vaughn, first base prospect: “I’ve learned a lot from Pito, actually more about glove work. I asked him why he takes ground balls with a fielder’s glove. And it helps him with glove control, using a smaller glove. So I was like, ‘OK, I am going to try using it,’ and I can see the correlation. It makes you more hand-eye coordinated and move to the ball quicker.”
Abreu, on mentorship: “I don’t take that as a role. I don’t know how to say it. I don’t think about that. I just do what I do because that is who I am. That’s how my mom taught me. Try to do my best, try to help people, trying to (get the best out of) everyone around me, and that’s the only reason they see me that way. I’m glad to hear that, glad to hear all the good things people say about me, but I don’t do those things to have people talk about me. I just do those things because they come out naturally.”
Anderson: "Pito, definitely, he deserves (to win the MVP). You see the numbers, you see what he's doing. Every time there's a runner on, he's getting them in. And I couldn't be more proud to be right in the mix with him. He's definitely been playing his butt off, and he's been competing every night. I'm rooting for him. I hope he gets it."
Giolito: "That's our leader, that's our MVP. Hopefully, at the end of the year, MVP across the American League. He just does it, man. Whether he's playing first that night, DH-ing, the focus is there every single at-bat, no matter what's going on in the game. ... 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."
Robert: “He simply has the stats and the numbers to back him up. For us and for the team, he's done a lot. He's our leader, and on the field he has done everything for us to put us in a position to win and to contend. He's having a terrific season. I don't think that you need more than that. He's done it all."
Abreu: “The MVP is something I can’t control. I know there are a lot of people rooting for me, and I appreciate that. But whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. For me, what’s important is that I am my mom’s MVP every single day. And that’s what matters for me. … I know that my mom is very happy and glad and proud of me, and that’s all that I can ask for.”
Hahn: “Frankly, my happiness for a guy like José will come once we're able to present him with a ring, because that's what he deserves based on what he's meant for this organization and his performance on the field. Certainly look forward to, hopefully, the opportunity to do that in the coming years with him.”
Renteria: “This is where he started his career, he's a heartfelt White Sock. I think if there's anybody in that room that I'm really, really happy for, in particular, (it's) Pito. He does represent the White Sox in the best way you can possibly represent the White Sox.”
Abreu: “Hopefully, I’m going to end my career as a White Sox. That’s my desire. And I’m going to end my career on a good note, winning championships.”