Jose Abreu’s faith in his team remains strong, says Sox still can charge to Central title
“If we truly believe we can do it, then we’ll do it,” Abreu said of the Sox’ chances of winning the division. “It’s just a matter for us to believe it.”
Surrounded by reporters in a congested corner of the White Sox’ clubhouse, three-time All-Star slugger Jose Abreu admitted this hasn’t been his best season.
But Abreu, 35, is known for setting high standards and possessing a high threshold of pain.
So it wasn’t entirely surprising for Abreu to maintain his belief that he and his struggling teammates remain capable of embarking on a run to the American League Central title.
“If we truly believe we can do it, then we’ll do it,” Abreu said Saturday before the Sox lost to the Diamondbacks 10-5 to fall below .500 with a 63-64 record and 4½-game deficit in the division.
“It’s just a matter for us to believe it.”
Their task remains ominous. Of their 35 remaining games, only four are against the division-leading Guardians. Nine are against the second-place Twins, and six are against wild-card contenders Seattle and San Diego.
The Sox slipped under .500 slightly more than two weeks after they mounted a five-game winning streak that put them five games above .500 and one game out of first.
The surge started two days after Abreu and other veterans spoke to their teammates, with Abreu emphasizing they could win the division if they believed in themselves.
Does that faith still exist, even after tough losses last week at Kansas City and Baltimore?
“Of course,” Abreu said in a convincing tone. “If it wasn’t that way, we wouldn’t be here. I think we believe it, it’s just a matter of we have to keep believing it.
“There is a saying in Cuba that it’s not done until it’s done. Until that happens, we’re going to keep fighting and believing it.”
Manager Tony La Russa subscribes to Abreu’s theory.
“Especially if he says it,” La Russa said. “If you believe you got a shot, you got to start some place.”
Abreu went 1-for-3 with an RBI on Saturday to lift his batting average to .308, along with a .384 on-base percentage and .840 OPS.
But his 14 home runs and 60 RBI make it virtually impossible that he will hit 30 homers for the sixth time or drive in 100 runs for the seventh time in his storied Sox career. Injuries to leadoff batter Tim Anderson and Luis Robert have affected Abreu’s run-producing opportunities.
But, “I think that I could have done more for this team,” Abreu said. “But like I said, you prepare for having better results, you can’t force them.
“But you know what? I just try to live in peace with myself.”
Abreu also is at peace with La Russa, who has been the target of fans for his curious in-game decisions. It was La Russa who gathered his leaders to speak to the rest of the team.
“Everybody knows how the old guy is and what he represents,” Abreu said. “We all love him.
“His sense of unity and his sense of family is something that is around us, is around this team. It doesn’t matter what the people from the outside say. The fans can say whatever they want to. It doesn’t mean that what they say is true.
“We support Tony. We appreciate Tony and the effort he put to put us in the best position to succeed. I think the message is just one, and it’s the same message for everyone.”