Bobby Abreu: Angels’ solid-state drive
Bobby Abreu is like trucks on the freeway. He is always there.
He is as consistent as your neighbor’s barking dog, only less noisy. He is a given. The Angels play a game, Abreu will be in right field. A day without No. 53 in the lineup is also known as a day off.
Last season, Abreu played 150 games or more for the 12th consecutive season. The only others to have done that are Willie Mays, Billy Williams, Pete Rose and Cal Ripken. The only time Abreu would miss a day of work is for a death in the family. His.
It isn’t as if he has been in Angels’ red forever. It just feels that way.
He arrived to start the 2009 season, a free agent who became expendable to the Yankees when they signed some other superstar for $2 million a game, or some such nonsense. Abreu was merely a star.
“You can kind of get swallowed up in New York, with A-Rod and [Derek] Jeter,” says Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, who is thrilled with his Yankees leftover.
“He’s the kind of guy you notice in the other dugout as somebody who always plays hard,” Scioscia continues. “Then, you get him in your dugout, and you really see it.”
Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher says Abreu’s value, besides having consistently impressive batting numbers, is as a player he can use on other players.
“I’ll give you an example,” Hatcher says. “Bobby has a program and he sticks to it. Every day, before batting practice, he is in the batting cages under the stadium. He works something called the slow toss. He gets a slow toss, and hits the ball to the opposite field. It helps him get his wrists used to taking the ball the other way. I put other guys on the program, but they stop after a while. Bobby keeps doing it. That’s what makes him what he is.”
The Angels also measure things other than numbers. That’s why, at age 36, the veteran from Venezuela was re-signed through next season, with a club option for one more at age 38.
“He is like part mentor and part psychiatrist in the room,” Scioscia says.
Abreu puts it more simply.
“I’ve been around for a while,” he says. “I like to share.”
He shares with Brandon Wood, who is struggling.
“He tells me to keep it simple,” Wood says.
Abreu says, “I don’t worry about his power. That’s there. I tell him to load it up early in the pitcher’s motion, to get that waggle with his bat, that rhythm, earlier.”
Mentoring aside, Abreu has loaded up early and often over a 15-year major league career. His consistently impressive batting numbers may also turn out to be numbers that get him in the Hall of Fame, something not in the discussion when the Yankees said goodbye with nary a tear.
Examples, going into Monday’s game:
--Abreu is 10 doubles shy of 500. When he gets there, he will join Mays, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggio as the only players with 500 doubles, 2,000 hits, 250 home runs and 1,000 walks.
--He is the only active player to have at least 350 stolen bases and 250 home runs.
--His 100-plus runs batted in last year put him over that milestone for the seventh time in a row. The only other active players having done that are Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols.
--He has 20-plus stolen bases in 11 straight seasons, the longest streak in major league baseball.
--He is one of 14 active players with at least 3,500 total bases, and one of 16 with at least nine grand slams.
These all read well on the statistical sheets given to Hall of Fame voters, and Scioscia nods in agreement when the point is raised.
“Let’s see, he has around 2,100 hits,” he says, acknowledging that 3,000 has been the magic number for automatic admission. “But some of these stats about homers and stolen bases, putting him in the same company with all-time greats, that plays well with voters. And let’s say he has 180 hits or so each year for the next three. That puts him near 2,800.
“I think he will be somebody in the conversation.”
Abreu smiles at the topic but doesn’t laugh it off. Asked which team cap he might wear on a special day at Cooperstown, he answers like a man who has thought about it.
“I have to be honest and say the eight years I had in Philadelphia would steer me that way,” he says. “But I love it here, and who knows how a nice finish here might feel when it is over.”
Angels fans don’t want it over soon. Like a warm blanket, Abreu has become their comfort zone.
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