When José Abreu speaks, the White Sox listen, but White Sox fans don’t have to hang on every word.
Abreu is too politically adept to give the public exactly what it wants to hear. He never shows anything but the utmost respect to his bosses, to the extent that Robin Ventura would probably still be managing the team if it were Abreu’s call. And while Liam Hendriks said that Abreu issued the gravest words during the White Sox’s team meeting last week, he boiled down his rendition to boilerplate material.
“My point in that meeting was if we believe that we can do it, we can do it,” Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “The success is in the unity of a team. I truly believe that because that’s my goal in life and in my family. That’s how I strive as a family man. Being this is my second family, I just try to enforce that message here and try to have everybody understand and try to get everybody together, everybody to come together in that same goal. If we believe it, we can make things happen. But we have to believe it, like I said. That was my message and point in that meeting.”
None of that is all that enlightening to us on the outside, but reading through the rest of James Fegan’s account of the media session, one sentence jumped out at me. Here’s the full quote without any emphasis to see if the same sentence jumps out to you (scroll slowly if you don’t want the spoiler).
Speaking before the game Saturday, Abreu wouldn’t go as far as to say that something is missing with this group compared to last season, when that team easily won a division crown despite a similarly rough injury situation to this year.
“Comparisons are tough, are difficult,” Abreu said through Russo. “To compare last season with this one is not fair. It’s different. It’s different seasons. Honestly, I think this is a really good culture, to put it that way. I think the group of guys that we have here, the young guys — even though I don’t think we are as young as we think we are — are trying to do their best every day. Like I said, if we believe, we can get to a point in this stretch where we can make things happen. But we have to believe.”
It’s actually more of an aside than a sentence now that I’m ready to single it out.
— even though I don’t think we are as young as we think we are —
That’s a fascinating combination of words because it retains accuracy no matter how far you twist the “personal judgment” dial, and it appears there’s at least some.
At its least scornful interpretation, Abreu might be noting that Luis Robert, Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada and Tim Anderson will have anywhere from three to seven full seasons under their belt at the end of the year, and if they can’t be counted as full seasons, it’s only because they keep getting hurt like 50-year-olds do, pulling muscles on movements that should be routine for them. (Michael Kopech is only working on his second full season, albeit one that’s four years removed from his debut.)
At its most vinegar-soaked, Abreu might be issuing a critique of arrested development at the team and individual levels. “You’re going to be 25/27/28/30 years old, and you’re using empty pizza boxes for blankets. When are you going to get it together?”
That’s the biggest question, and one that’s going to linger over the entire offseason like smoke from one of Jerry Reinsdorf’s defeat cigars. If there’s an abundance of talent here, the Sox are squandering it, trailing a Guardians team that didn’t even try to get better over the last year, and a Twins team that’s more injured than the Sox. If the talent isn’t as abundant as it appeared, the Sox have to figure out how to get out from under it.
Rick Hahn has faced this problem twice before, and both episodes resulted in lengthy rebuilds without having accomplished anything. History says that letting him fix a roster on the fly is like expecting a dog to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Even if you gave him the necessary implements, he still wouldn’t have the vision.
Ultimately, Abreu defaulted to a pragmatic optimism in the form of a tautology from Havana’s Yogi Berra (“There is a saying in Cuba that it’s not done until it’s done”) because there’s no other option.
Tony La Russa echoed similar sentiments, but he laid out alternative feelings to explore, and fans have already beaten him to the punch.
Judging from the reception at Guaranteed Rate Field post-Elvis Night, fans have moved on from the first part of DABDA, and now they’re exploring the second letter. Most of the online chatter from Saturday’s game followed the two heroes hoisting a “SELL THE TEAM” sign in various parts of the lower bowl.
The excellent photo at the top of this piece captures the banner as it came closest to the action in the bottom of the ninth. It shows AJ Pollock hitting the deck after Luis Frias buzzed his tower. Afterward, Tony La Russa tried to get angry himself by glaring into the Diamondbacks dugout for the duration of Pollock’s at-bat.
Here are three GIFs of La Russa’s, and in the last two, I had to include the Arizona broadcast’s cutaway so you know you’re not watching the same 15 frames on loop.
The brief glimpse of Torey Lovullo’s eye rub more or less summed up his indifference after the game, and suggests that the White Sox’s anger is going to be as impotent as everything else this season.
The fans’ efforts in this area will probably be just as ineffective, but there’s a brief window where “rage as the prevailing sentiment” is novel, so they may as well seize the opportunity before it gives way to indifference. White Sox fans eventually reach acceptance, and it’s reflected in attendance.