On Thursday evening the Baseball Writers of America named Jose Abreu the MVP of the American League. The award thrust the White Sox first baseman into the national spotlight and gave him the recognition as one of the games elite that was long overdue. 

Jose Abreu joins Frank Thomas (1993-94), Dick Allen (1972) and Nellie Fox (1959) as the only White Sox players to win AL MVP.  He also snapped a lengthy streak for first baseman everywhere. None of the past 120 first place MVP votes cast have been for a first baseman.The last first baseman to win the award was Joey Votto in 2010. 

The achievement made his home country of Cuba proud as well. Abreu is just the third Cuban born player to win the award. The only other two are Zoilo Versalles and Jose Conseco.

Jose Abreu embodies the city of Chicago. He is tough, hard working and talented. He leads by example and lets his game do the talking for him. The seven year veteran was the only White Sox player to play in every game of the 2020 season. He even played 10 more games than the runner up DJ LeMahieu. This is what he has done throughout his career. He shows up to work everyday with his hardhat and lunch pale and hits dingers. 

During the 2020 season Jose Abreu put on a hitting clinic. He led the A.L in hits (76), RBI’s (60), slugging percentage (.617), extra base hits (34) and total bases (148). He also finished second in home runs with 19 and cracked the top in batting average (.317) and OPS (.987). Abreu was the only player in the A.L to rank in the top five in each of those categories. He also became only the fourth player to lead the AL in hits and RBI. He joins Lou Gehrig (1931), Carl Yastrzemski (1967) and Jim Rice (1978) as the only players to ever accomplish that feat. 

 

Clutch Factor 

Not only did Abreu continue to mash baseballs throughout the season, he rose to the occasion in the games biggest moments. In the month of August six of his 11 home runs and 14 of his 29 RBI’s came in the seventh inning or later. If the White Sox needed a clutch hit, Abreu was there to provide one. 

During a nationally televised game against Cleveland early in the season, Abreu hit a home run off of Cy-Young recipient Shane Beiber. It was one of only seven long balls Beiber gave up all season. 

With the city of Chicago watching as the White Sox faced their crosstown rivals back in August, Abreu peppered the Wrigley Field bleachers with four consecutive home runs, tying a major league record. 

During a pivotal game against the Twins in early September, Abreu delivered a game tying home run in the fourth inning. Later when the White Sox trailed again with two outs in the seventh inning, he legged out an infield single to tie the game once more. When the dust settled after the game the White Sox had clinched their first playoff berth since 2008, no thanks to Abreu’s efforts. 

When the Chicago Cubs paid a visit to Guaranteed Rate Field in late September the great “clinching the playoff vibes” had lost their luster. The White Sox were in the midst of a six game losing streak including a 10-0 embarrassment the night before to the Cubs. This slump could not have come at a worse time as the White Sox were jockeying for position in the AL Central Standings. That was until Jose Abreu flipped the script. With two outs in the fourth  inning and the White Sox trailing by a run, Abreu rang a bases-clearing double over the head of Kyle Schwarber to give the White Sox the lead. The hit turned a 5-4 deficit into a 7-5 lead and made Abreu the first player in nearly a decade to have as many RBI’s as games played this season. 

In the first playoff appearance of his career, Abreu was once again unfazed and sent a fly ball over the center field wall to extend the White Sox lead to three. 

Model Of Consistency 

If you have watched Abreu throughout his career his success should come as no shock.Abreu has been a staple in the middle of the White Sox lineup for seven seasons. He has had to work with a lack of protection in the lineup and has still managed to put up impressive numbers. The MVP award just adds another trophy to an already impressive collection. The three time All-Star, has won two Silver Slugger Awards, three AL Player of the Month awards, five  AL Player of the Week awards and took home Rookie of the Year in 2014. In 2017 he joined some elite company when he became the third player in MLB history to start his career with four straight seasons of at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs. 

Value Extends Off The Field 

When Rick Hahn signed Abreu in the winter of 2014, he knew he was getting a good player. But I don’t think he realized the impact Abreu would make both on and off the field. Abreu has been the definition of valuable for the White Sox organization. On top of his stellar play he is regarded by his teammates as a leader in the clubhouse. He sets an example in with his work ethic and carries himself like a player manager.

Abreu has served as a mentor to players such as Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. He helped his locker room buddy, Yoan Moncada flourish into the White Sox best hitter in 2019. Eloy Jimenez has referred to Abreu as a “father figure” and without the help of Abreu there is a good chance the White Sox don’t persuade Luis Robert to play on the south side. Abreu was an intrical part of their free agent pitch to Robert after he defected from Cuba. Nomar Mazara credited Abreu for working with him throughout the season in an effort to break out of his slump. Simply put Abreu was the face of the franchise during their rebuild and is now leading the charge out of it.    

Winning the 2020 MVP is just another chapter for one of the greatest players in White Sox history.  It also serves as a reminder of why his number 79 will join the other White Sox legends that overlook Guaranteed Rate Field after he retires.

 

Mitchell Kaminski
Mitchell studies sports communications at Bradley University and works for Braves Vision, an organization that works alongside ESPN broadcasting games and covering Bradley sports. Creator of Dorm Room Dispute podcast.