By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — Jose Abreu has been on a mission all season.
The first part of that journey began with proving he was worth the six-year, $68 million contract he signed with Chicago last November. After holding his own and hitting .260 in April, the 27-year-old Cuban defector has been on a tear that now finds himself in the conversation for the American League MVP award.
In the last week, Abreu is hitting over .600. He’s gotten on base in 10 straight plate appearances entering play Saturday evening. Many believe Mike Trout of the Angels will be the MVP. Certainly, Trout has the credentials to win the hardware, but not everyone believes he has been the best player in the league.
“I will not take anything away from Trout,” a scouting veteran of 45 years said. “Let me say it this way, Chicago would have about 15 less wins without (Abreu). He has kept them respectable, and that was a team that as a team that only won 63 games last season. Heck, they will have won that many by mid-August.”
Abreu may be the most impressive first-year player since Trout three years ago and Albert Pujols in 2001.
“The confidence level of knowing who you are is really there for Jose,” White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson said. “When you can do that and put it on the field every day, it’s great. He doesn’t have any apprehension when he stands in that box. That is where he is at.”
Putting into perspective what Abreu has done starts with having been on base in 39 of his last 40 games. Throw into that mix a current 21-game hitting streak, and what all of that screams is the most impact from one player this side of Trout in 2014. Abreu leads the MLB in homers with 31 and RBIs with 84.
“He is no secret to the league and they (pitchers) are no secret to him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We need to get other guys on base so it is not that easy to walk him (Abreu). That becomes the job of everyone else,that he gets pitches to hit.”
Abreu is on pace for 48 home runs and more than 130 RBIs. Those numbers alone don’t mean an automatic MVP, but if you pay attention to the game, you must put his contribution and numbers in the middle of the debate.
“For me and what he has done for our club, he is the league MVP,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.
With Masahiro Tanaka’s season-ending injury, one award seems a certainty. That, of course, is American League Rookie of the Year. Abreu would become the sixth White Sox player to win the coveted award given by the Baseball Writers of America. The last White Sox player honored was Ozzie Guillen in 1985.