White Sox first baseman José Abreu saw clips of the benches-clearing kerfuffle at Detroit on Monday, with rookie Gavin Sheets holding him out of the fray.
“One of the things that really hit me was, that’s not the kind of action you want to see from a baseball player, especially since a lot of kids follow me,” Abreu said Tuesday. “I don’t want them to think that’s how you play the game. It’s not. Sometimes you react and your emotions get the best of you, but I want to make sure the kids don’t take that as an example because that’s not right.”
It’s almost predictable that Abreu’s main takeaway from a dustup, shortly after he’d been hit for the 21st time this season, was the example he was setting.
Abreu is a stabilizing veteran force on a team that includes players – Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert – who he calls his kids. He’s been with the White Sox his entire MLB career, through 60- and 70-win seasons, to making franchise history with back-to-back playoff clinches.
“He means a lot,” Jiménez said. "All year, he's battled, and that is the kind of guy you want to see when you're on a team, on a championship team. He's our leader.”
Abreu shrugged off questions about the events that led up to the White Sox and Tigers spilling from their dugouts to converge at second base in the ninth inning of the White Sox’ 8-7 victory Monday.
Tigers reliver Alex Lange beaned Abreu on the left elbow, and he took his base. Then, he tried to steal second on a ball in the dirt but was thrown out on a hard slide. Abreu and Tigers shortstop Niko Goodrum exchanged words.
“About what happened yesterday,” Abreu said before Tuesday’s game against the Reds, “it has been happening throughout the whole season, and there's nothing new there. About the slide into second base, I just did what I usually do. I don't think it was anything wrong.”
Only four other major-league players have been hit by more pitches than Abreu this season. So, he’s used to opposing pitchers trying to throw inside and missing their spots. He took a fastball to the helmet against Cleveland two months ago, so a fastball to the arm Monday was tame by comparison.
Abreu did, however, take issue with was Lange’s reaction to the slide at second.
“Even when he hit me, he didn't apologize or say anything,” Abreu said. “And that's fine, but then I slid into second base, and he started chirping. That's not good, you don't do that. Why are you doing that?”
Abreu may have been critical of his own response in turn, but his teammates quickly jumped to his defense – both on the field in the moment, and in interviews later.
“If you got 21 hit by pitches, how are you going to feel?” Jiménez said Tuesday. “… We are family; we support each other. So, that’s how we support each other. If you’ve got a problem, everybody has a problem.”
So, when Abreu sees clips from Monday, there’s a silver lining.
“It was a really nice moment even for me to see the support of my teammates, everybody on the field trying to protect me,” he said. “That meant a lot. It wasn’t the best action, but that’s something that made me feel good and showed everybody how unified we are.”