It was earlier this week when Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona noted parallels between Abreu and what he remembered of an emerging Cabrera. Francona was clear not to say that the two are on the same plateau right now, because Abreu is five months into his major league career and Cabrera has won the past two MVP awards, picking up a rare triple crown in the process.
Mostly, Friday night’s differences were rooted in the clear separation of the two teams on the field. Cabrera’s Tigers are in second place but remain in playoff contention. Abreu’s White Sox are fading fast, like a team that has resigned itself to the fate of another losing season.
Cabrera was 0-for-5 and largely invisible during the Tigers’ easy 7-1 victory. Abreu made noise all over the place, with three hits, including a double, and also making two errors as his club was soundly defeated.
If Abreu aspires to be Cabrera one day, a big part in the torch-passing will have to come through things completely out of his hands. The White Sox are going to have to put a solid team around their big slugger as the Tigers have done around theirs -- and then Abreu is going to have to lead it into October.
While the first part of the White Sox’s rebuild created early-season optimism as Abreu took off and Adam Eaton showed his grit, it has been evident since that the areas of the roster not yet rebuilt have tugged the club in the wrong direction.
Abreu is headed toward an obvious rookie-of-the-year award, but it’s not what he has on his mind as the final month looms.
“It is difficult,” Abreu said of the team struggling while he has individual success. “To me there is not an individual agenda in this game. It’s a team game. When you don’t get the results you want as a team, there’s something missing there. I have to be thankful too, a lot of my success has been because of the team. So I’m thankful for that as well.”
By the time Friday’s game ended, Cabrera had stuck it out to the end, while White Sox manager Robin Ventura replaced Abreu with Dayan Viciedo at first base in the ninth inning. The two offensive forces aren’t quite on the same level just yet.
“There are some similarities there, but Miggy was much younger [when he was a rookie],” Ventura said in reference to the Tigers veteran, who made his debut at age 20; Abreu, meanwhile, is 27. “But you start looking at what they do and mechanically there are some very similar things that they do, that Jose reminds you of Miggy early in his career. It will evolve.
“You don’t really like putting that on anybody because Miggy has that respect throughout the league. Jose is getting there. People do respect him, but there’s a ways to go to get to that level.”
As for the differences in the teams, Ventura tried to remain positive, but it’s all about the future for the White Sox.
“There are pieces, but you just have to get better, and who knows how that's going to go in the offseason,” Ventura said. “We like pieces that we have and you just continue to build on it. Right now is probably not the time to be looking that way because you're probably going to look different when you go into the offseason.”
Perhaps if the White Sox had something to play for, it would be less evident that they are out of gas this month. But nobody, particuarly Abreu, is admitting to giving in just yet.
“It’s been the same as the other months; I don’t see anything different,” Abreu said. “Personally and as a team we continue to work on the same things. We keep our routines going. We’re not doing anything different. We’re very close to September now and personally I feel really good.”