While the Chicago White Sox are in the early stages of trying to find a replacement for manager Tony La Russa, one national sportswriter believes the team also needs to find a player who will have a strong voice and provide needed leadership in the clubhouse.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has had a number of thoughts about the White Sox recently but during an appearance on WSCR-670 The Score’s Inside the Clubhouse with David Haugh and Bruce Levine, Nightengale broached the subject of the White Sox saying goodbye to long-time first baseman Jose Abreu.
"“I think they need to shake things up in the clubhouse.,” Nightengale said. “Ya know, hey, he’s a great guy. Is he a leader? I don’t know about that. Nightengale added“I just think, ya know, you gotta, ya know, clear out a space there at first base. Ya know, get (Andrew) Vaughn over there, ya know that sort of thing, maybe make the team more athletic. Nothing against Abreu, ya know, he was great in Chicago. One of the best signings they ever made. But I think you gotta stir things up in that clubhouse.”"
Over his nine-year career with the White Sox, Abreu has been nothing short of professional with how he played the game. He averaged playing over 141 games a season, a mark that would be higher if not for the COVID-shortened season of 2020 when he played in all 60 games.
The Chicago White Sox are going to have a big decision to make with Jose Abreu.
Abreu never came across as being a very vocal guy and seemed to be the type who led more so by his actions on the field. His play, not his words, spoke volumes of his professionalism toward his craft.
Interim manager Miguel Cairo doesn’t question Abreu’s leadership qualities and sees him as the type of guy younger players should look up to.
"“He wants to play every game. He wants to be in there, in the battle, on the field. He wants to be there for the team. He wants to show the way it’s supposed to be done,” Cairo said.“I hope the young kids over her follow him because I would follow him if I would have been a young kid.”"
Closer Liam Hendriks agrees that Abreu’s leadership qualities are a valuable asset to the ball club going forward.
"“I think from a leadership point of view, I think from a defense, I think from an offensive point of view, I think he’s an integral part of this team.” Hendriks added““I hope we bring him back, but that’s for the higher ups and then whatever he decides as well.”"
The free agent has been a stalwart in the White Sox lineup for his whole career but general manager Rick Hahn has said that Abreu’s return could produce a ripple effect on the rest of the roster.
That “ripple effect” would involve playing time and/or spots on the roster for players such as Vaughn and Gavin Sheets.
Abreu’s departure would provide greater opportunities for Vaughn and Sheets to play first base and the outfield as needed. Or the team could look to move one of the two and land players who might be able to fill voids the team has at second base, rightfield, or starting pitching.
The loss of Abreu does leave a hole in the leadership role. Guys like Tim Anderson and Liam Hendriks might be looked upon to fill that vacancy but it will be tough to replicate the production and professionalism Abreu brought to the ballpark day in and day out.