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Reacting to José Abreu’s comments on his White Sox departure

by Nik Gaur

Earlier today, Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times released an interview with Houston Astros first baseman José Abreu that touched on Abreu’s White Sox career and the reasons he left Chicago. If you have not read the article, I recommend that you do, as there are many interesting quotes.

Based on online reactions, White Sox fans seem somewhat split on whether Abreu’s assessment of the 2022 White Sox should have included accountability on his own part. While Abreu did not hit for much power in 2022, he still registered a productive season. However, since his quotes from the Sun-Times story are focused on off-field dysfunction, some fans have pondered whether Abreu, the unquestioned leader of the White Sox, is to blame for some of the lack of cohesion.

“I think sometimes talking about the past can bring a lot of animosity, but I think the best way I can put it is just that we weren’t a real family.”

-José Abreu (via Chicago Sun-Times)

Of course, it is impossible for anybody not regularly in the White Sox clubhouse to truly know how the blame should be distributed. However, as Abreu is widely known as a “lead by example” type rather than a player who will regularly inspire others through speeches or boisterous displays, it is easy to understand why some would wonder if his leadership in 2022 simply was not getting through to the roster.

“Sometimes, when you’re at a place where maybe you’re not being respected to the point where you think you should be, you just have to go somewhere else.”

-José Abreu (via Chicago Sun-Times)

The above quote has garnered the most attention from White Sox fans. Some have interpreted the lack of respect as Abreu critiquing ex-teammates. However, both my initial and current read of the quote is that it is more directed to the front office/ownership — for instance, White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was always very open about his wish for Abreu to spend his entire career with the White Sox. Since his vision did not pan out, perhaps Abreu feels slighted.

While the White Sox did offer Abreu a “good” contract, it is very unlikely (given their payroll situation) that it was as good or better than the Astros’ 3-year, $58.5 million deal. Since the White Sox, then, did not offer Abreu a contract that the rest of the market saw as his worth, then it is understandable that Abreu would see this as disrespectful. After all, we are talking about a player who not only was regularly told he would always be a member of the White Sox, but one that stated he would get a White Sox-themed tattoo over the winter, even after it was becoming obvious that he would not be returning to the team.

In order to discuss whether the lack of cohesion of the 2022 White Sox is somewhat his fault, I think it is essential to also discuss Abreu’s entire White Sox career. Abreu has been an innocent bystander for quite a few dysfunctional moments. In 2015, Abreu was on the team during the Adam and Drake LaRoche vs. the White Sox ordeal. In 2016, he was present as Chris Sale, in an act of protest, took scissors to White Sox uniforms in the locker room. And of course, Abreu was around for Tony La Russa’s second stint as White Sox manager, which included seemingly monthly viral moments.

As for the on-field aspect, it is inarguable that Abreu was extremely successful and one of the best players in White Sox history. However, he rarely had support. From 2014-16, the team was infamously “mired in mediocrity.” Abreu chose to stick around for the 2017-19 rebuild years rather than request a trade, but the post-rebuild White Sox have only won two playoff games.

I included the above context because I think it is important to keep in mind as we discuss whether the dysfunction of the 2022 White Sox should be attributed to Abreu (to any extent). Given the many on- and off-field controversies (none of which were his fault) the team has had since his 2014 debut, I personally think Abreu has earned some leeway. Even if he was, for whatever reason, a weaker leader in 2022 — which is all speculation — anybody else would have wanted to be traded away during the rebuild. By explicitly requesting that he not be traded, and by remaining a consistent all-star caliber player, one would think that Abreu earned more goodwill with fans.

Ultimately, while every team needs leadership from players, it is the responsibility of the manager and coaching staff to ensure that a team is working as a unit. This fact should not be lost in reactions to Abreu’s quotes.

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Featured Photo: © Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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This team lacks leadership from.the top down. Jose probably just got sick of the vacuum, and figured if he was ever going to get a ring, it would be somewhere else. He was also probably hurt and angry that a team he gave everything to disrespected and lowballed him at the bargaing table. That’s why he’s in Houston and not in Chicago. Thanks Jerry.

Stone Poney

Players know just as much about baseball as the fans do. Ownership promised that “the money will be spent”, and yet the best free agent they signed during the entire rebuild is a slightly above average outfielder. That isn’t lost on the players. They know that Jerry is cheap as F, and that this team isn’t gong to win. I don’t think the disrespect that Abreu referred to necessarily was related to his contract or anything like that. He may have felt disrespected that ownership did literally nothing to help improve the team since 2020, and has gotten slightly worse every year since. As a fan, I sure feel disrespected by Jerry and Hahn, and their smugness, cheapness, and phony narratives.

This is a lousy franchise, and while Hahn deserves some blame, he did not hire himself first of all. Nor did he restrict himself from being able to sign a free agent like Harper, Springer, or Semien at some point during the past 3-4 years. Jerry has disrespected everybody, fans and players alike, because he is cheap and spineless. No doubt the Padres and other teams have much more of a “family” vibe, because their owner actually values things like winning, fun, and excitement. To make something more important than money, what a concept. The reason the Sox have won a playoff series one season in the past 50 years, and two playoff games in the past 15 is greed. Period.

Thomas Hall

The above states that Reinsdorf wanted Abreu to remain with the White Sox. Did he back that up with action? The White Sox way always seems to be looking for bargain basement deals to fill needs! They have done nothing to augment the team’s core, and despite two years of being devastated by injuries, they have done nothing to build a buffer so that injuries don’t completely sink the team! There was a complete lack of leadership from the bench, as shown by nonstop lackadaisical play and nonstop amateurish baserunning and fielding mistakes! Who could blame Abreu, or for that matter, any other player for not wanting to continue to waste time and talent playing for this team?

Thomas Hall

It was a real joke to ever call this team a World Series Contender! The 2021 playoff loss to the Astros exposed this team’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities, yet management and ownership have done nothing to address this! They just like to use the worn out injuries excuse! Guess what, injuries are a part of the game, and five of the 2022 playoff teams were harder hit by injuries than the White Sox! If this organization were serious about winning, it would have acted to shore up the team! White Sox fans were fed a line of crap about victory parades to come!

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