CHICAGO (AP) - José Abreu has known nothing but losing since he joined the Chicago White Sox.
Six years, six losing seasons. Six consistent performances by the Cuban slugger, and six empty Octobers.
Perhaps more than anyone else, Abreu is ready for the other side of Chicago’s long-running rebuilding plan.
“We weren’t born to lose, but we know that losing is part of the game,” he said. “In this process, we were aware of the cost that we had to (pay) to get to this point now. I think we learned a lot from all those losses, from all those years. I think all those losses are going to make us better for this year and for the future, too.”
The White Sox are talking playoffs again after winning just 72 games in 2019. Abreu is a big reason why, but it goes way beyond the first baseman’s AL-leading 123 RBIs last season.
Abreu’s sterling reputation around the game helped Chicago reel in a couple of high-profile free agents over the winter. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel paid tribute to Abreu’s leadership after he agreed to a $55.5 million, three-year contract in December, and catcher Yasmani Grandal said Abreu was a factor in his decision to sign with the team.
“It was kind of exciting for me. Obviously, being from Cuba, you absolutely heard about him for a long time,” Grandal said, “and just getting to play with a guy like that, there’s a lot of things that I can learn.”
Abreu also is a key figure when it comes to the development of potential Latino stars Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert. Moncada and Robert are also from Cuba.
Moncada set career highs with 25 homers, 79 RBIs and a .315 batting average last season. Jiménez hit 31 homers in his first year in the majors, and Robert is expected to make his major league debut this season after slugging his way through Chicago’s farm system.
Abreu, who turns 33 on Wednesday, has been a big influence on Moncada and Jiménez, and likely will be spending a lot of time with Robert this year.
“His (example), we should follow every single day,” Jiménez said Friday on the first day of the team’s annual fan convention. “He works hard, and that’s what you want to see when you’re around people, and he likes to compete.”
In addition to everything he gives Chicago off the field, Abreu has been a model of consistency since he was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014. He has driven in 100 or more runs in five of his six seasons with the White Sox.
After belting 33 homers last year, Abreu could have looked for a blockbuster deal in free agency. But he said repeatedly he wanted to return to the White Sox, and he agreed to a $50 million, three-year contract in November.
“I’m very happy. I think that’s just a reward for all the work and all the commitment that I had with this team,” Abreu said through a translator. “It’s part of the loyalty from myself to the team and from the team to me.
“These three years are going to be good and we’re going to bring joy and happiness to this town.”
The White Sox are hoping that joy includes a playoff appearance this season. When it comes to all the postseason talk, Abreu is taking a pragmatic approach.
“I prefer to go step by step,” he said. “I don’t want to say that we’re going to be in the playoffs or we’re going to win the World Series because we don’t know yet. We might have the talent, but we don’t know. That’s why I’m saying I prefer just to go day by day, step by step.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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