If the fans keep this up, maybe Jose Abreu will be an All-Star again.
It would mean a lot to the White Sox first baseman who was an All-Star as a rookie in 2014, his first year after coming to the United States from Cuba, maybe even more than the first time.
“It will be excellent because we play this game for the fans,’’ Abreu said through a translator. “To have the honor to represent them — and when they know what I’m doing —that is really big. If that happens I would be really happy.’’
Abreu is the kind of player that appeals to fans. He shows up to work early, prepares with a plan, plays hurt, leads by example and by producing on the field and is loyal to an organization that hasn’t won since he’s been here.
He has had All-Star caliber performances in each of his four full seasons and is having another one in 2018, but hasn’t had the honor of representing the Sox since 2014. The first fan balloting results were released Tuesday, and with 267,812 votes, Abreu leads all American League first basemen.
This doesn’t happen in these parts very often. In fact, Abreu is the first White Sox player to lead at any point in the All-Star balloting process since Frank Thomas won the fan election at first base in 1996. Boston’s Mitch Moreland (241,889) and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (173,174) are second and third behind Abreu, who ranks first among AL first basemen in doubles, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases and extra-base hits and is second in average, on-base percentage and RBI.
Abreu would be the sixth Sox elected by the fans as a starter, joining Thomas (1994-96), Carlton Fisk (1981-82), Richie Zisk (1977), Dick Allen (1972-74) and Luis Aparicio (1970).
“It would be nice to see him there, to get the chance for the whole world to see who Jose Abreu is,’’ Sox manager Rick Renteria said.
Making the All-Star game in Minneapolis in 2014 was a great source of pride for Abreu, and while he may downplay the possibility of going again, those close to him will assure you he’d rather go than take the days off during the All-Star break.
But you also know it’s the truth when he said, “You know me, guys, I’m just thinking about ways to help this team win games, taking care of the at-bats, driving runs in. If [making the All-Star team] happens that is going to be good but I’m not thinking about that right now.’’
Abreu went 0-for-4 in the Sox’ 5-1 victory Tuesday. He watched Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez (back-to-back homers to open the first against right-hander Adam Plutko), Matt Davidson (two RBI doubles off the fence) and Omar Narvaez (RBI double) stake right-hander James Shields (2-7) to a 5-0 lead.
Shields, 36, had the type of performance that made him an All-Star with the Rays in 2011, pitching seven innings of one-run ball in one of his best outings of the season. Shields gave up four hits, walked none, struck out two and surpassed the 2,500 innings mark for his career. Despite a serviceable 4.63 ERA, he was looking to halt a streak of 12 starts without a win since Opening Day.
When Abreu went in to the All-Star Game in 2014, he brought his parents and was thrilled to meet Derek Jeter, who retired after that season.
“Those are the experiences you never forget,’’ he said.
“Just being there, being around great players and having the opportunity to share the field and locker room with them was very special.’’
Abreu was batting .290/.350/.512 with 10 homers, 25 doubles and 38 RBI through Monday. He ranked second in the major leagues in doubles, including 20 in his last 32 games, and was on pace to hit 63, which would tie Detroit’s Hank Greenberg (1934) and Pittsburgh’s Paul Waner (1932) for the fourth-highest total in history.
“We all know what the projections are in those stats,’’ he said, “but I just try not think about it. Just keep doing my job. I just ask for good health because if I stay healthy, good things will happen.’’
Good things, like maybe another All-Star appearance.