Jose Abreu is still on cloud 9 after winning the AL MVP — and weighs in on new Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa: ‘I told him ... I will have his back'

LaMond Pope, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read

Jose Abreu has received countless calls and texts since being named the American League Most Valuable Player on Thursday night.

The Chicago White Sox first baseman was still processing it all Friday afternoon.

“I was overwhelmed,” Abreu said via an interpreter during a conference call. "I’m still processing all that happened (Thursday) because I don’t work or do things to get awards.

“What happened (Thursday) was very special, and ... it has been a crazy few hours.”

Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Nomar Mazara, Leury Garcia, Edwin Encarnacion and Yasmani Grandal were among the 2020 teammates Abreu heard from after he joined Frank Thomas (1993-94), Dick Allen (1972) and Nellie Fox (1959) as the only Sox players to win the award.

“It was a good thing because you feel like you did something special, not just for you but for the people who are around you, for all those guys,” Abreu said. "You know they love you and they appreciate what you do for them and what you do for the team every day. It was good to receive all those texts and messages and calls.

“It’s good when you see that all that you do for them, they appreciate and they love you because of you who are and not just because of what you do. Then it is authentic. I have to be grateful with everybody in the organization because they’ve been supporting me for a very long time.”

Abreu also mentioned a call he received from new Sox manager Tony La Russa on Thursday morning, hours before he received the MVP honor. Abreu said the conversation was short “but it was a good one.”

“I just welcomed him,” Abreu said. “I told him I would support him and that I will have his back.”

Abreu said he talked to Albert Pujols shortly after the Sox hired La Russa to replace Rick Renteria. Pujols played for La Russa in St. Louis and told Abreu that La Russa would be a “manager I would like to play for.”

It came to light Monday that La Russa was charged with driving under the influence after a February arrest in Arizona. The case was filed Oct. 28 — one day before the Sox announced La Russa’s hiring — according to the Maricopa County Justice Courts website.

Said Abreu of Renteria: “Ricky was a friend, he was a father. And he will continue to be a friend and father for me and a lot of people because I’m sure he is going to stay in baseball.”

When asked about the managerial change, Abreu said: “I’m really thankful (for) Rick Renteria, (for) the coaching staff, because they help us a lot. They helped us to make the playoffs last year, they helped us to get to this point.

"At the same time, I’m just glad to have a manager like Tony La Russa. Like I told him (Thursday), he can count on me. As a player, that’s what we can do for a manager, just play hard and respect him. We’ll see how things go once the season starts.”

Abreu led the AL in hits (76), RBIs (60), slugging percentage (.617) and total bases (148) and tied for first in extra-base hits (34) while helping the Sox to their first postseason appearance since 2008.

“We reached the postseason this year," Abreu said. “But that is not enough. We can do better.

“We have to win, we have to win. That has to be our mindset. ... That’s all we need to think about and we need to take care of because we have to win. We have the talent, and we have the resources to win. We can’t have any more excuses.”

Abreu, 33, was overcome with emotions Thursday after winning the MVP award.

“This has been a very challenging year for everybody,” Abreu said. "For the world. Not just for people in baseball. But for me, it has been a very difficult and challenging year. Even though I’ve gotten awards before, very special awards too, this one was even more special because this one happened to me a few weeks after my grandma died.

“For me, it was something special because she was the most beloved person in our family. She always carried me, she always supported me. She was everything in my life and in everybody’s life in my family. Getting this award and just thinking about her, what this award would mean for her, it was something that I couldn’t hold back.”

He became the third Cuban-born player to win the AL MVP, joining Jose Canseco (1988 with the Oakland A’s) and Zoilo Versalles (1965 with the Minnesota Twins).

“They treat me with respect and this award for them is like my payback," Abreu said when asked what winning the award might mean to Cuba. "This is respect for them. This is something I got for them. And it’s as simple as it is.”

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