If Jose Abreu’s season was turned around by seeing his son in Miami, then perhaps his second-half surge may stick around into 2017 and beyond.
Abreu, who was able to return to Cuba last winter as part of a goodwill tour last winter, secured a green card that allows him and his family to travel back and forth between the United States and Cuba, while his son, Dariel, has a visa that allows him to visit the States to see his father.
Abreu started rising from the dead about a week and a half before the Miami series, which is basically shown in his ability to get some lift on well-struck balls to left field, but I can see every little bit helping. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to have more people to hit homers for, whether it’s his son ...
"He's always asking me to hit homers," Abreu said through a team interpreter. "Yesterday he was very happy. When we got home he was telling me, 'Hey, you hit it.' I'm glad to give him that joy."
... or an 11-year-old cancer patient.
Shane, a Sox fan who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for bone cancer in his left leg at Lurie Children’s Hospital, says he loves to play first base (Abreu’s primary position) and catcher when he is able to play baseball.
"Those are very emotional moments,’’ Abreu said through translator Billy Russo. "Those are the moments that you feel touched for the people. I promised him I will try to hit a homer and I did.’’
This is the kind of benevolence that makes Abreu the White Sox’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, and even FanGraphs can sense it.
Jeff Sullivan has been tracking the most extreme strikes this season, and Abreu already secured the most outside swinging strike of the season on Aug. 25 against Steve Cishek (he now has the top two spots on the leaderboard; he struggles against sidewinding righties).
On Wednesday, Jerad Eickhoff lured him into swinging at the lowest strike. In Abreu’s defense, he tried to check his swing on the curveball in the dirt, and the home plate umpire called it instead of appealing to first. Alas, all history books say he swung, and now Abreu now owns two of the four quadrants this season.
But there are a couple of points that make this post redeeming rather than irksome. For one, Sullivan notes Abreu’s demeanor afterward:
When Abreu got to the bench, he slammed some stuff around out of frustration, the way men do. But to his credit, along the way, he paused to do a favor.
Abreu was upset at no one but himself. I think you can learn a lot from the way people behave when they’re displeased. Some people lash out at others. Some people just shut out the world. And some people realize that everyone’s fighting his or her own battle, and you should never elevate yourself over anyone else. Jose Abreu, in the moment, was disappointed in Jose Abreu. But still he allowed his light to keep shining.
Also, it turns out Abreu has a rival warlord in the territories outside the strike zone. While Abreu has recorded the most outside and lowest swinging strikes, the highest and innermost swinging strikes belong to Mark Trumbo. Sean Doolittle pumped the highest fastball by him, and you’ll never guess who was responsible for making him swing at a pitch that would normally be impossibly inside.
To follow up on Wednesday morning’s post, that’s the outcome Chris Sale strives for with those down-and-in sliders. It’s frustrating when it results in a two-strike HBP, but I imagine the satisfaction of a batter limping back to the dugout after swinging at a pitch that hit him makes is highly addictive for both pitcher and catcher. It also makes one wonder how Jose Abreu would fare facing Sale, and I wonder if that alone would make the White Sox reconsider trading their ace.