There’s value in the numbers, and then there’s value in the man himself.
Jose Abreu, the American League Most Valuable Player, was the man in 2020.
He was the main man in the White Sox’ clubhouse because of his production, his clutch hits and his penchant for driving in runs — and driving them in at big moments.
He was the man because he refused to take days off, playing in all 60 games of an abbreviated, coronavirus-plagued season and injecting his determination into a big bundle of work ethic and leadership.
For all of that, the Baseball Writers Association of America voted Abreu, 33, the Sox’ fourth MVP player, following second baseman Nellie Fox (1959) and first basemen Dick Allen (1972) and Frank Thomas (1993 and 1994). The Braves’ Freddie Freeman was named National League MVP, making it the first time since Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau in 2006 that a pair of first basemen won the awards.
Abreu garnered 21 of 30 first-place votes and 374 points. Indians second baseman Jose Ramirez was second with eight first-place votes and 303 points, and Yankees infielder DJ LeMaheiu was third with one first-place vote and 230 points.
Abreu was surrounded by family and friends and overcome with emotion, his face down, when MLB Network announced the results. Viewers only saw the top of his head.
“You can dream about it, but you can’t imagine the feeling,” Abreu said through a translator. “Even though I don’t focus on winning awards, getting this one just feels like recognition for all the work, all the effort I’ve been doing during my whole career to get to this point. Now, my mom can really say that she has an MVP as a son.”
Abreu’s 60 RBI carried him to his second RBI title in as many years, and his 19 home runs were second behind Luke Voit’s 22 for the Yankees. He also tied for first in wins above replacement (2.9) as he led his team to the first postseason of his seven-year career.
“The most consistent hitter there is,” said Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who was seventh in MVP voting.
“One of the most underrated players in this game,” Sox third-base coach Joe Mc-Ewing said in September. “A true professional who’s amazing in that clubhouse and comes up with clutch hits time and time again.”
“Despite the unprecedented circumstances of the season, Jose set the tone for our club day after day with his preparation and performance,” general manager Rick Hahn said recently. “He was a dominant force in our lineup.”
Playing with passion seen in a competitive scowl, and with joy expressed in laughs on the field, Abreu batted .317 with AL highs of 148 total bases, 34 extra-base hits, 76 hits and a .617 slugging percentage. Don Mattingly in 1986, Jim Rice in 1978, Robin Yount in 1982 and Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 are the only other players to lead the AL in hits and slugging percentage.
“First and foremost, I want to thank God for this blessing,” Abreu said. “It is very special to win this award, and even more doing it this year with all the adversities and challenges we faced. I feel extremely honored and humbled.”
He said the award was for his family, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and the Sox organization. He thanked fans and teammates and former managers Robin Ventura and Rick Renteria.
“This is not a one-man award,” he said. “A lot of people help you get to this point.”
NOTE: Jose Abreu, the least of new manager Tony La Russa’s worries, tactfully answered a question about the Sox’ recent controversial hire during a conference call.
“I think you have to wait to see how this goes,” Abreu said of La Russa, whose February DUI arrest came to light this week. “I can’t really say much about it, but I’m excited to have a manager with the history Tony has.”