Jose Abreu's ‘desire' comments spark varied reaction throughout White Sox clubhouse


PHILADELPHIA — Jose Abreu and his manager both tried Tuesday to downplay the slugger’s earlier comments when he said the White Sox can’t match Kansas City’s desire to win.

Abreu, who met with White Sox manager Robin Ventura earlier in the day, quickly dismissed the topic Tuesday other than to note he only intended to question himself. Ventura also talked down the comments and suggested Abreu’s focus was himself.

But teammate Alex Avila said he was neither caught off guard, nor does he take umbrage at Abreu, who Monday identified the desire to win as the biggest difference between the Royals and White Sox. Asked if he thought the White Sox possessed the same desire, Abreu almost instantly said “no” twice before he added he doesn’t know how to fix the issue, either. Avila, who helped the Detroit Tigers to four straight American League Central titles from 2011 to 2014, said he understands exactly why Abreu said what he did.

“To be honest, it’s probably how most guys feel when you’re on a team that right now we’re out of contention,” Avila said. “It’s not surprising. He’s upset we didn’t play better this year, and that’s probably the same for most guys.

“I’m just as frustrated as he is, and I just see a guy that is frustrated with the fact we didn’t play better this year.”

While Abreu spent less than a minute rehashing the comments, he did admit to feeling the frustration of a third straight losing season. His disappointment is likely compounded by a seventh straight series loss to the Royals, who won 14 of 19 meetings between the teams this season, including victories in three of the previous four days.

“What we talked about yesterday was about me,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I don’t have anything more to add. That’s it.

“It’s tough because that’s the position you want to be in and you’re not in that position and that’s tough to digest. Everybody knows baseball is a difficult sport. ... It’s a tough game and the only way that you can accomplish your goals is to work hard every single year.”

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Perhaps trying to protect Abreu from looking as if he was pointing fingers, Ventura suggested the message was misinterpreted. He thinks Abreu is disappointed, frustrated and tired at the end of a trying season.

“What’s lost in it is he probably used the wrong word for describing what he’s feeling,” Ventura said. “That’s part of the challenge for him is he has to be translated what he’s feeling. He’s talking about himself. He’s not talking about his other teammates.

“We’re getting close to the end, and he’s grinding through it. I think that’s more of it than anything else.”

Ventura also disputed that desire or a lack of effort is the culprit when it comes to the Royals winning 39 of 57 meetings between the teams since 2014.

“They have our number,” Ventura said. “They beat us. And sometimes you have to tip your hat that they’re better. But by no means did they have more desire. I know guys come in here prepared and ready to play.”

Outfielder Adam Eaton said he agrees and disagrees with Abreu, though the latter might be related to whether his effort has been questioned. Eaton also thinks the Royals’ success has helped to create and improve that type of atmosphere.

“I think winning creates desire,” Eaton said. “We haven’t tasted that, as a team and a young unit. We haven’t had that type of success. That’s the success you want to get back to. There needs to be more desire here. There needs to be more ‘We’re going to reach our destination in any way, shape or form.’ It doesn’t matter what type of circumstances or players are here. Every team is trying to create that type of desire and atmosphere for their club. I don’t think he he was out of line saying that.”

Avila doesn’t question where Abreu is coming from either and thinks these are the type of questions that need to be asked.

The veteran catcher realizes how much of an impact the injuries to Austin Jackson, Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka and himself have had on the White Sox as well as the retirement of Adam LaRoche, which affected the lineup until Justin Morneau arrived in July.

He had a sense the White Sox received some breaks during a 23-10 start to the season. But he also said they haven’t handled their downturns well. And when that happens, Avila said each aspect, from execution to preparation to talent and desire should be scrutinized.

“That’s something that should always come up on a team that doesn’t perform to expectations,” Avila said. “If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong there. Because obviously if you’re a team that is like we are, to where we’ve have spurts where it seems like things could come together, but obviously over the course of the whole season they haven’t played to that type of expectation.

“All those have to be looked at on a team that is expected to win but doesn’t. If it’s not, there’s something wrong there. That’s not a story or an issue — that’s reality.”

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