Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu among best of Cuba’s MLB legacy
By Chip Egan
Jose Abreu has had himself a tremendous career since joining the Chicago White Sox as a 27-year-old rookie back in 2014. He is the reigning American League MVP. He has a chance to be the first player since Cecil Fielder from 1990-92 to lead the AL in RBIs for three consecutive years (as well as lead all of MLB in that category over that time). He is also a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner for first base, three-time All-Star, and Rookie of the Year Award winner.
Abreu is seen as the elder statesman and leader of the first-place White Sox and has been productive from day one. Aside from the short season last year, he is currently playing an average of 147 games a year (130 games and counting this year). Including last year, his career slash line is .291/.350/.518 with an OPS of .867. He has posted 226 homers and 774 RBI.
He certainly is well on his way to adding his name to the list of great players in White Sox history. While doing so, he is also cementing his legacy as one of the great players to come out of Cuba, which in and of itself is no small feat.
Cuba’s history of turning out quality major leaguers is outstanding and Abreu finds himself rubbing shoulders will some Hall of Famers such as Tony Perez and Tony Oliva, and one who should be in the Hall in Minnie Minoso. Arguments can be made as to who the greatest Cuban ballplayers were, but those three names seem to pop up on most lists.
Jose Abreu is one of the greatest Chicago White Sox players in the history of the team.
For purposes of this article, only position players, not pitchers, were considered. Also, this is looking at players whose playing careers prior to making the majors were centered in Cuba, thus players such as Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro were not considered since their formative playing years were here in the United States.
Additionally, this article will focus on the stats of Perez and Minoso from the ages of 27-34, which covers Abreu’s career numbers to date and those in the heart of their careers. For Oliva, the comparison looks at his numbers from age 25 to 32 in which he was an All-Star each season.
Perez is arguably the greatest player to come from Cuba. The Hall of Famer was a seven-time All-Star and two-time World Series champ. Former teammate Pete Rose called him “the glue to the Big Red Machine.” From 1969-76, Perez hit .286/.355/.495 with 217 homers and 834 RBI. What’s even more impressive is that Perez was an All-Star in both ’67 and ’68, and from ’77 to ’80 his lowest BA was .270 and he drove in 105 RBI in 1980 at the age of 38.
Oliva is also in the Hall of Fame and deservedly so. After playing in only 16 games his first two years in the majors with Minnesota, Oliva went on a run of eight All-Star appearances from 1964 to 1971. While his 177 homers pale in comparison to Abreu’s 226 over a similar time frame, Oliva put up a .313/.360/.507 line with an identical .867 OPS as the Sox slugger. Toss in a Rookie of the Year Award, a Gold Glove, the five-time league leader in hits, and three batting titles and you have a player deserving of the recognition he received.
This brings us to a man who should be in the Hall of Fame based on what he accomplished over a long and distinguished career. Minoso is most known for his time with the White Sox where he picked up three Gold Gloves over 12 years in the organization. He was a 13 time All-Star between the White Sox and Cleveland Indians. The man who managed to play in five decades over his career totaled a .308/.397.480 line with an OPS of .877 between 1953 and 1960 while averaging 20 HR and 108 RBI during that period.
Barring injury, Abreu looks to have at least four to five more good years left in which he can be very productive. His track record already puts him in high regard amongst his countrymen but if he can continue to produce at or near the rate he has over his career, Abreu will only add to his status of being one of Cuba’s elite exports to Major League Baseball.