Back when he was introduced in October, Jose Abreu -- or the translation of his answers -- gave the impression that the White Sox's biggest acquisition was an intensely private man, which could be a tricky balance when he's suddenly thrust into a very public position.
Given the cluster bomb of newness -- country, city, culture, contract, etc. -- that could've been the system shock talking. Or maybe the loose ends from his defection made fewer words necessary. Or maybe he wanted to set the interaction bar low, and raise it on his own terms. Or some or none of the above.
Whatever might have been on his mind in October, he looked like he fit in at SoxFest. There's always going to be a minimum distance when an interpreter is involved, but adjusting for the language barrier, he had more than a base level of charisma on display with fans and media, and his answers were more evocative. Plus, he told fans it's cool if they want to call him "Pito," his nickname in Cuba, although a Google search suggests context is key with that one.
There's still plenty left on his plate -- including what's on his plate, according to Rick Hahn in an interview with Laurence Holmes. The cold could be a bigger adjustment than anything. Abreu said he liked the weather better during his first visit to Chicago and he's going to need consultation from the other warm-weather players.
Speaking of which, I was riveted by fans asking critical questions. They very much have the right as customers (double customers, kinda) to voice complaints, but there is a line between an incisive, cutting question or observation that warrants a response/defense, and one that isn't worth responding to. Sometimes, a couple of words send it over the slope.
Alexei Ramirez and Robin Ventura heard comments on both sides of the line. On a panel with Abreu, Minnie Minoso and Dayan Viciedo, a fan opened with something for Ramirez -- something that started with effusive praise, but switched gears with an emphatic "But..." and careened into a patronizing critique of his mental errors. It didn't actually end with a question, so Ramirez didn't see a need to respond.
Later on, a guy asked Abreu about the cold weather and noted that Ramirez's April batting gloves looked more like boxing mitts. Even on a translation delay, that zinger connected.
Ventura had to deal with doubters about his demeanor, and there was a Goofus/Gallant divide there as well. One guy wanted to know how Ventura planned to gain back credibility in the clubhouse, which is an easy question to dismiss quickly when there's no evidence he lost it.
On the other hand, another fan told Ventura he wasn't sure if he had a pulse. As slydernelson described in his FanPost, Ventura interrupted the question with a facetiously emphatic defense, but because the question was rooted in an external observation (as opposed to an assumption of insider knowledge), Ventura did end up giving him a complete answer.
Although Hahn gave most questions consideration, it seemed like the fans with beefs had a better chance at getting an answer if their questions were rooted in the realm of customer service ("This is upsetting to me when I watch it"), as opposed to armchair expert.
From comments from Hahn and Don Cooper, it sounds like the plan is for Erik Johnson and Felipe Paulino to take the last two spots in the rotation, with Eric Surkamp, Andre Rienzo and Charlie Leesman behind him in that order. Dylan Axelrod's name was not mentioned.
Thanks to the No. 3 pick, this SoxFest may have set a record for questions about the draft. Hahn defended the work of scouts, relaying information that the Sox ranked only behind the Giants in WAR from their draft picks between 2008 and 2011, even though they spent less than anybody.
Draft director Doug Laumann said the shape of the draft board at this moment suggests a pitcher is a likely selection.