Despite White Sox’ struggles, Jose Abreu’s bat remains hot
BY DAVID JUST For Sun-Times Media August 29, 2014 11:22PM
Jose Abreu, who’s hitting .316 with a .375 on-base percentage, is making a strong case for MVP consideration despite the White Sox’ slide in August. | Jeff Chiu/AP
TIGERS AT WHITE SOX
The facts: Game 1 — 12:10 p.m., CSN+, 670-AM, 97.5-FM; Game 2 — 6:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.
The pitchers: Game 1 — Max Scherzer (15-4, 3.13 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (10-3, 2.03); Game 2 — Kyle Ryan (MLB debut) vs. Chris Bassitt (MLB debut).
Updated: October 1, 2014 6:50AM
Jose Abreu may not be playing for a contender, but he’s still contending for most valuable player.
Abreu has been the lone bright spot for the White Sox in August, a month that has seen the team go from two games under .500 to 60-74 and one game out of the American League Central cellar.
The Sox are hitting .252 with a .298 on-base percentage this month, but Abreu has seen his average rise to .316 and his OBP to .375.
Abreu reached base in all four of his plate appearances Friday with a four-pitch walk, two singles and a double in a 7-1 loss to the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field.
It’s rare for a player on a non-contending team to win an MVP award, but it’s not unprecedented. Albert Pujols was the last to do so in 2008.
“The numbers that he has been putting up and where he’s at statistically throughout the league, he’s up there with anybody,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I don’t vote for [MVP], but he is for me.”
Abreu acknowledged that going 7-18 in August has been a challenge despite his inching closer and closer to postseason honors.
“It is difficult,” Abreu said. “There are not individuals in this game. It’s a team game. When you don’t get the results you want as a team, there’s something missing there. I have to be thankful, too — a lot of my success has been because of the team.”
Abreu is the major-league co-leader with 97 RBI and is tied for second with 33 home runs. Those numbers would be impressive at the end of a season, let alone with one month to play.
And despite an uncharacteristic pair of errors, Abreu’s defense has been a pleasant surprise. His footwork was a question mark coming out of spring training, Ventura said, but Abreu has worked at it and gotten help from Paul Konerko.
“More important than anything, I feel like I’m gaining confidence,” Abreu said. “The more games I play, the more confident I get defensively, so that’s what I see. It’s the confidence part of it.”
Mike Trout is the likely favorite to win MVP honors. His case will be strengthened by playing for the AL West-leading Angels.
With the race for the award still up in the air, a strong September could swing the vote Abreu’s way.
But win or lose, Abreu’s team-first attitude during an otherwise rocky August hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He’s still grinding out his at-bats when we’re a little ways out of first place,” hitting coach Todd Steverson said. “That’s got merit.”
Hawk considering fewer games
Broadcaster Ken Harrelson is considering cutting back the number of games he works next season.
Harrelson told the Sun-Times that he hasn’t made a final decision, but he could trim his schedule to eliminate most — if not all — road games.
He said he wants to spend more time with his family, particularly his two grandsons.
“They’re playing baseball now, and they need me to be there for them,” Harrelson said. “That really is a big factor. That’s the No. 1 issue.
“I haven’t made a decision yet. We’ve talked about it, but I have a lot to think about and a lot of time, all winter, to think it over.”
Harrelson, who turns 73 next week, is in his 30th year in the Sox’ broadcast booth.
Contributing: Daryl Van Schouwen