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Jose Abreu's mom holds a lot of sway.
Back when Rick Renteria gave Abreu one of his two days off this season, he knew he'd have to explain to Abreu's mom why her son wasn't in the lineup. And it sounds like she might have even more power than we think.
Asked if he believed he'd be back in a White Sox uniform next season, the American League RBI champ kind of made it sound like it wasn't up to him.
"Yes sir," he replied, "because Mom is happy."
All kidding aside, it hasn't been at all difficult to figure out what Abreu, slated to hit free agency, wants because he's been telling us all season. He badly wants to stay on the South Side to be a part of the franchise's planned transition from rebuilding to contending. He's pledged on multiple occasions that if the White Sox don't re-sign him, he'll sign himself to a contract and play here anyway. He revealed that team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf promised him he'd never play in another uniform.
It's long seemed a foregone conclusion that this generation's "Mr. White Sox" will be suiting up in the same colors he has for the past six seasons when 2020 rolls around, and his tune didn't change one bit on the final day of the 2019 season.
"Everybody knows my wishes and my desire to stay here," he said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "This is an organization I respect. This is an organization I really honor. Right now, I'm going to take a few days off with my family. And we are open. We are open to discuss. I want to be here, and you know guys, I've been telling you that. Hopefully I'm going to be here."
General manager Rick Hahn said earlier this season that it was "very likely" Abreu would be around for the planned good times after spending six losing seasons on the South Side. Manager Rick Renteria said recently that he cannot even envision the White Sox making their shift into winning baseball without Abreu.
Sunday, his teammates got in on the act. Tim Anderson, the newly minted major league batting champ, told Our Chuck Garfien that he'd be "very disappointed" if Abreu didn't return. Eloy Jimenez stood behind reporters while Abreu talked about the 123 RBIs that led the AL this season, jumping up and down and cheering when Abreu said he believed he'd be back in 2020.
Those were just the latest examples of the way these White Sox feel about Abreu, a player long praised as a role model and mentor for the team's ever-growing number of impact youngsters. Yoan Moncada never has enough good things to say about the guy who's been mentoring him for three years. Jimenez said earlier this season that Abreu has been like a father to him. Luis Robert, the organization's No. 1 prospect and a fellow Cuban, figures to join Abreu's group of acolytes next season.
And all along, Abreu has returned the love, thanking the organization at every turn as he hits personal and franchise milestones. This has been one of his most productive seasons yet, if that RBI crown is any indication, though he's spent it looking forward to what comes next, as giddy and excited about the bright future on the South Side as anyone. It's clear his relationship with the youngsters is a two-way street, as he's often more excited about their achievements than they are.
In one of his more recent acts as a team leader, he declared at the beginning of the month that "the 2020 season, it starts in September." The core of this team backed those words up, with Abreu, Moncada, Anderson and Jimenez all contributing significantly to a sensational month for the White Sox offense. Abreu believes it shows what's coming next season.
"It's very good. We finished winning, right?" he said. "We played very good baseball in September. This is just a little proof of what we are able to do next year. Hopefully next year we are going to be much better than what we showed in September. We are going to be very good, and I'm very happy."
In yet another season packed with accomplishments - the RBI crown followed a second straight All-Star appearance, with a second straight Silver Slugger a possibility after the season - Abreu is ready for the team to take a big step in 2020, a step the organization as a whole believes is possible. The ingredients are there for the long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending to happen. Abreu figures to be one of those ingredients, even if he didn't have a new contract in hand as he departed Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday.
But if Abreu's mom has anything to say about it, there will be one real soon.