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Rival Roundup, Vol. 5: Chicago-style MVPizza

Jose Abreu earns a major honor after an exciting season for the White Sox.

Wild Card Round - Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics - Game Three Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Happy Sunday, and welcome to another edition of Rival Roundup.

Most of the leaves are off the trees now, and with that indelible sign of the changing seasons comes a wind that has kept the hot stove chilled. With awards season through, the focus shifts to the early free-agent rumors; as the months go by, those will turn into trade whispers, as teams aggressively attempt to plug the holes they couldn’t fill with spare change alone.

But for the time being, things are quiet. Coaching staffs around the league are still shaking out, new general managers are being brought into the fold, and organizations as a whole are formulating their offseason plans. With the seasonal timing, it feels a bit like New Year’s resolutions on a corporate scale, except instead of teams hoping to shed a few pounds come January, they’ll try to pocket $150 million, or something.

Roundup Record

Today’s record has always felt like one of those Sunday morning songs to me.

Cleveland Spiders

  • In a shocking twist, Shane Bieber wins the Cy Young. Who could have seen this coming?
  • Notably (which is a fitting adjective in an article with notes), that’s the fifth such award for a Cleveland pitcher in under fifteen years. On average, only a couple seasons go by before another Ohioan takes home the hardware.

Chicago White Sox

  • The second such charge for the new Chicago skipper has already turned off a potential free agent and soured the opinion of a fanbase already with negative feelings about the hire. Needless to say, the offseason is not off to a brilliant start for the folks on the south side.
  • However, there’s a major silver lining this week for Sox fans — the American League MVP is none other than Chicago’s own first baseman, Jose Abreu.
  • It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work, and a lot of sticking through some hard times. When Abreu joined the Sox in 2014, they were squarely on the other side of a long window of above-average baseball. The Sox hadn’t finished last in their division since bottoming out of the 7-team AL West in 1990; the White Sox had five division titles, a World Series championship, and no last-place finishes between 1990 and 2012. Abreu’s signing came after the Sox plummeted to a 63-99 record and cellar-dwelling position during the 2013 season. 2020’s shortened summer marked the first winning campaign that Abreu has ever known in the MLB.
  • In that time, he’s become the face of a franchise that’s seen guys like Paul Konerko retire and others like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton get sent away for rebuilding assets. In his seven years with the team, Abreu has a .294/.350/.520 slashline, with 198 homers, three All-Star appearances, a trio of Silver Sluggers, a Rookie of the Year Award, and now - an MVP.
  • Abreu led the league with 76 hits, 60 RBI, a .617 slugging percentage, and a total of 148 bases, playing in every contest of the 60-game schedule.

Kansas City Royals

  • A quiet week for Kansas City, who may be looking at veteran starter Matt Shoemaker.
  • Shoemaker could be an interesting complement to a promising rotation featuring a couple sophomores who were aggressively promoted into the 2020 season. The jury’s still out on a team like the Royals, who certainly gave us our share of struggles this year. Do they have what it takes to put together a winning season in 2021?

Detroit Tigers

  • The Tigers are another team that could be in the market for an established arm to anchor a class of developing pitching talent. Amidst the Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal types, there may be room for somebody like Taijuan Walker, who’s been linked with Detroit this week.
  • Walker debuted at 20 years old, so he’s got parts of eight years of big-league experience, but will only be 28 years old at the start of his next contract. Could be a savvy move for the Tigers, especially if they’ve found something nice in rookie pitching coach Chris Fetter.

Until next time!