PHILADELPHIA – Jose Abreu’s teammates understand where the White Sox’ star player was coming from Monday when he questioned his team’s “desire” after they got manhandled – once again – by the Kansas City Royals.
“It’s probably how most guys feel when you’re on a team that is out of contention,’’ catcher Alex Avila said Tuesday. “It’s not surprising. He’s upset we didn’t play better this year.’’
The Sox went into a two-game interleague set against the Phillies Tuesday with a 72-78 record, playing out the string of meaningless games September and left to pursue individual goals while digesting what will be, barring a fantastic finish, a fourth straight losing season. For Abreu, it’s his third losing season in a row since he signed a $68 million contract after defecting from Cuba.
Like everyone in the Sox organization, Abreu is disappointed. And exasperated.
“There is frustration because it’s the same as last year — we thought we had the pieces and would go further,’’ outfielder Adam Eaton said. “Kansas City takes three of four from us [and 14 of 19 this season] in the fashion they did and he’s probably frustrated. As well as everyone else.’’
Eaton, arguably the Sox’ top all-around position player this season, said “there needs to be more desire here” in the context of, if the job isn’t getting done you need to push harder.
“There needs to be more ‘we’re going to reach our destination in any way , shape or form, it doesn’t matter what type of circumstances or players are here,’ ’’ Eaton said.
Desire “should always come up on a team that doesn’t perform to expectations,’’ said Avila, a former All-Star who played on four postseason teams in Detroit. “If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong there.
“Execution and preparation before a game, talent on a team and also desire,” Avila said, “all those things have to be looked at on a team that is expected to win but doesn’t. If it’s not, there’s something wrong there. That’s not a story or an issue — that’s reality.’’
Abreu was asked to follow up on his brief comment Monday that the Royals’ “desire to win” set them apart from the Sox. He had emphatically said “no” when asked if the Sox had the same desire.
Manager Robin Ventura, who talked to Abreu about what was said, reiterated Abreu was talking about himself, not his teammates.
“What we talked about yesterday was about me,’’ Abreu said through translator Billy Russo Tuesday. “I don’t have anything more to add. That’s it.’’
Shortly after talking to reporters in the visitors clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, Abreu, speaking in Spanish, talked to several Latin teammates in an intense tone. Then he took his bat to the indoor cage to hit.
The bottom line? Abreu is tired of the losing.
“I think it’s about everything,’’ he said. “I want to make the point again I was talking about me, not everybody else.’’
“I’ve read what was written,” Ventura said, “but actually talking to him, for me it’s more about it’s a long season and he’s probably talking about himself, whether he didn’t run out a ball or he’s just tired.
“We’re getting close to the end and he’s grinding through it. I think that’s more of it than anything else.’’
Ventura said “desire” might not have been the word Abreu, who does not speak English, wanted to convey.
“Part of the challenge for him is he has to be translated what he’s feeling,’’ Ventura said.
“If anybody thinks he’s calling out somebody else, that’s not the case. If a guy was saying that and talking about somebody else, it becomes a different category.’’
Abreu played on winning teams in Cuba. In Chicago, he played on fourth place teams (in a five-team AL Central) his first two years. The Sox will likely finish there once again.
“It’s tough,” Abreu said, “because that’s the position you want to be and you’re not in that position and that’s tough to digest.”