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MVP Jose Abreu tells new White Sox manager Tony La Russa he’ll have his back

The team leader says the objective for 2021 is simple: “We can’t have any more excuses. We have to win.”

White Sox first baseman and AL MVP Jose Abreu says he will support new manager Tony La Russa.
White Sox first baseman and AL MVP Jose Abreu says he will support new manager Tony La Russa.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The objective for 2021, first baseman Jose Abreu says, is clear.

“We have to win,” Abreu said Friday through a translator on a Zoom call. “That has to be our mindset. We have to win no matter how, we have to win. That’s all we need to think about and take care of because we have to win. We have the talent, we have the resources to win. We can’t have any more excuses. We have to win.”

That’s five “we have to wins” and counting.

Is there anything else?

Named American League Most Valuable Player Thursday night after leading the Sox to a 35-25 season and the first playoff experience of his career, Abreu said getting there wasn’t enough. Winning a World Series would be.

With that in mind, the Sox made a controversial hire two weeks ago, bringing 76-year-old Tony La Russa out of managerial retirement to take them there. La Russa owns three World Series rings but hasn’t managed since 2011, when he won his last one with the Cardinals.

La Russa called some players in recent days, including Abreu on Thursday. It was a brief chat, and Abreu told him he would “support him and that I will have his back. It was a short conversation, but it was a good one.”

Under fire for a second DUI charge, La Russa can use any support he can. He certainly hasn’t had much outside the Sox’ organization. Getting some in the Sox’ clubhouse from the AL MVP is a good start.

“La Russa has been one of the greatest managers in the history of the sport,” Abreu said. “I knew that. That is something you have to respect.”

When La Russa was hired Oct. 29, Abreu said he reached out to Albert Pujols, who played for La Russa’s Cardinals.

“Pujols just told me he was a great manager, an outstanding person and one I would like to play for,” Abreu said. “I know these things happen, this is a free country and you can have an opinion, but you have to respect each one’s opinion. But as a baseball player, you have to appreciate what you have, and he is our manager and his record as a big-league manager is one of the best. And we’re going to have a chance to play for one of the greatest managers in the history of the game.”

Abreu was always in fired manager Rick Renteria’s corner.

“We’ve been fortunate to be around good people,” Abreu said, “people who care about you, care about us. Ricky was one of those people. Ricky was a friend, he was a father.”