On Friday afternoon during the opener of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals, Jose Abreu lay on the first base line in pain after a vicious collision with Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier. The crowd in the stands, and White Sox fans everywhere held their breath for the reigning AL MVP, having already witnessed young stars Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert go down to long-term injuries.
Both men would be helped off the field by their team’s respective medical staffs, which is very unusual for Abreu, who is as tough and resilient as they come. He wouldn’t play in the nightcap on Friday, which the Sox would win, but he returned to the lineup Saturday night, and in a moment reminiscent of Paul Konerko homering an at-bat after getting plunked in the face with a fastball, Abreu, too, homered in his return to the lineup.
More impressive was Abreu’s mad dash home in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday afternoon to give the Sox a 4-3 comeback victory. He doesn’t have the speed that Tim Anderson or Adam Eaton or any number of other players on the Sox possess, but what Abreu has in spades is heart. Grit. Determination. And a want to win that shines through in even the toughest moments.
It’s borderline miraculous that Abreu was even on the field Sunday. It’d have been easy for the Sox to do with Abreu what Kansas City did with Dozier, and put him on the 7-day IL for concussion protocol. Now, we don’t know how Abreu tested when checked out after the collision, so it’s entirely possible that he just had the wind knocked out of him and he was a little bruised and needed a little rest. But Abreu wants to play every day. And he wants to win in the worst possible way.
It’s why he’s willing to hurtle his body all over the field to make plays defensively, and sprint full speed to home plate with the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth of a mid-May game. He plays every day like it’s his last opportunity to set foot on a big-league field, or like a rookie trying to prove to himself and his manager that he should stay in the bigs. And this is coming from a guy who has an MVP award under his belt.
Not only has he led by example offensively, he has shown that want-to with the glove, as evidenced by a sliding, over the shoulder catch in shallow right field earlier this week, and his willingness to bump into the short wall in foul territory to track down a pop up on the warning track. He puts his body on the line to win at all costs.
That’s why his teammates love him and look up to him. He’s the heart and soul of this team. Tim Anderson drives the bus, but Jose Abreu is the beating heart of the team. If there’s anyone who deserves the title of captain, which was last conferred on the man Abreu took over for at first base in Paul Konerko, it’s Abreu. He sets an example of excellence that rubs off on his teammates in a positive way.
Jose Abreu wants to win a world championship, and he knows he has the horses to help get him there. And he’ll be the one leading the charge.