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PHOENIX – White Sox camp got weird Wednesday.
While José Abreu saying he’ll evaluate an uncertain future after the season, the last of his current three-year contract, wasn’t all that weird to hear from a baseball player, it was weird to hear from Abreu, the guy who threatened to re-sign himself the last time his White Sox tenure might have come to a close.
Suddenly, this season gained the possibility of being Abreu’s last, the swan song of his to-this-point stellar stay in a White Sox uniform, one that’s already earned him retired-number and concourse-statue status at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Suddenly, these championship-seeking White Sox had a new layer to their sky-high goals: to win one for their leader.
Is that what they’re thinking in the South Side clubhouse?
A World Series championship has been on these brains for years now, Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito dreaming of jewelry while rebuilding was still ongoing and Rick Renteria was in the manager’s office. Now that it’s firmly winning time, it’s the expectation, not the hope, with every newcomer that walks through the door, Tony La Russa included, talking about this opportunity to become a champion.
But now there’s the potential for an Abreu sendoff. And for the guy who’s been here through it all, the guy who was as excited about the since-arrived future as anyone, what a sendoff it would be to give him a ring.
“I’m always with whatever Abreu says and how he feels. He’s never led me wrong,” Anderson told CHGO on Thursday, reacting to Abreu raising the possibility of an end to his White Sox career following the 2022 season. “I’ve been with him since I got here, and I’ve seen his growth, I’ve seen everything about him. So I’m always going to follow his lead.
“Yeah, we want him around, but we get it. So if he goes out and does what he’s supposed to do, I’m always going to cheer him on and root for him, always going to want him back.
“I think this year’s going to be a great year for him, and hopefully we can keep pushing and reward him with something dope.”
Pardon me for my old-man-ness, but a World Series ring sure does sound dope.
Certainly, whether you root for the White Sox or not, you can admit Abreu, the model player for this franchise for nearly a decade, deserves that sort of ride off into the sunset — that is, if he sees the sun going down. We’re not exclusively talking about possible retirement. We’re talking, too, about the possibility of him going somewhere else as a free agent.
I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe me there, as Abreu once relayed that Jerry Reinsdorf assured him a career-long stay on the South Side. It still seems rather outlandish to think of Abreu wearing a different uniform.
But here’s what the MVP said Wednesday through team interpreter Billy Russo:
“Once the season ends, I will have to make a decision and see if I want to continue or if there’s a chance to be here or if there’s a chance to be in another place. We’ll see once the season ends.”
Like I said at the top, things have gotten weird.
Indeed, too, his teammates seem to be thinking of this as a “last dance” of sorts for the guy who’s mentored so many of them to big league stardom.
“Let’s enjoy this one,” Eloy Jiménez said Wednesday. “It is what it is. Let’s enjoy this one. This is the year. Let’s hope he comes back.”
“I think we all have to just go out and enjoy the game and enjoy it every day and enjoy every moment with him,” Yoán Moncada said through Russo on Thursday. “I don’t know what’s going to happen after this season ends. The focus has to be going out every day and enjoying it.”
Moncada stopped there in response to a question about giving Abreu a championship sendoff. Anderson had more to say, but he, too, spoke with uncertainty, acknowledging there were multiple paths Abreu could wind up taking.
“He’s the one that started all this off, so I think it would be very rewarding if he was to do it with us or continue to try to compete throughout this window with us to get it,” Anderson said. “We get (the realities of the business of baseball), but for the most part, we’ll definitely be rooting him on. … His personality and energy, we definitely need it.”
As Abreu seemed to allude to when he spoke Wednesday, the accomplishments of this year’s team might play a part in his post-campaign decision. And so maybe a ring would be the perfect end to his career. Maybe a near miss would coax him back for another run.
That’s speculative, of course, and we’re not likely to hear more about Abreu’s decision-making process during the season.
But there’s a new wrinkle to things on the South Side. With expectations already at “World Series or bust” levels, maybe it’s now “World Series for Abreu or bust.”
If they got it done? Sent this franchise icon off on the highest of high notes? That, to quote the shortstop, would be pretty dope.
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