Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Abreu Enjoys the Background

The trading deadline acquisition of Bobby Abreu was an excellent move on Brian Cashman's part. Aside from lengthening an already nauseating collection of powerful bats, Bobby offers Joe Torre the versatility he desires - hitting to the opposite field, bunting, stealing bases, showing speed on the bases. Bobby also sees a ton of pitches, further tiring pitchers weary of facing such a flammable lineup. took a look at how Abreu was able to seamlessly blend in to the Yankees clubhouse and batting order.

Larry Bowa can still picture a half-dressed Bobby Abreu in the Phillies' clubhouse, his head hanging and his uniform soiled by the frustration of another defeat.

With Philadelphia, everyone seemingly expected Abreu to be "The Man" -- a power-hitting icon of a blue-collar club, perennially challenging to the edge of playoff contention.

As Abreu reports for his first full season with the Yankees, that pressure appears to have been lifted off the 34-year-old outfielder's shoulders.

"He's not going to admit it, but you can see the different body language," said Bowa, Abreu's former manager with the Phillies. "He used to feel like he let everybody down because he didn't drive the run in or he didn't get the big hit. He wants to do that, but he also realizes that there are other guys who can do it."

"It's nice," Abreu said. "It's a different mentality. You know you're going to have a chance to be in the playoffs, and this is what it's all about. I'm looking for a World Series ring, and this team is going to give me a lot of chances to win."

"Everyone in this lineup is a star," Abreu said. "Back on the Phillies, I was 'The Man' -- the one everyone pointed to over the years. It's a good thing to be here, because sometimes you'll make a mistake, and you can deal with that. On the other side [with Philadelphia], when you made a mistake, everybody pointed at you."

It's funny - and I don't mean to bring up Alex Rodriguez for the 1,000th time - but Abreu has become (in Seinfeld terms) the "bizarro" A-Rod. For Bobby, the problem was that his role was far too defined. If he didn't play well, they lost. At least that's how he felt.
When he joined the Yankees, it was as if a load had been lifted from his shoulders. No more worrying about the Phillies losing culture - which has ironically taken a recent turn for the better - and no more immense expectations or pressure. Instead, Abreu was able to fade into a star-studded lineup, contributing by hitting for the gaps instead of strenuously reaching for the fences.
On the other hand, Rodriguez went from being The Man - on the Mariners and Rangers - to just another hired gun. The most expensive one albeit. Somewhere in the shuffle, A-Rod lost his identity. For the first time in his career - excluding his first couple years in the league - Rodriguez had to defer to a Captain. The Yankee ballclup was Jeter's team and not his team.
Throughout his time with New York, Rodriguez struggled to grasp his role with the Yankees, constantly drawing too much weight onto his lonely shoulders. Where Abreu comfortably slipped into the lineup as if he'd been here for years, Rodriguez remained noticeably uncomfortable - more resembling a rookie than a two-time MVP.
For the New York tabloids: make Alex and Bobby best friends. If A-Rod emulated Abreu's content ease, it might help the troubled superstar.
Abreu also shows a mentoring side, as the article makes mention of his attention to the younger bombers - including future-star Jose Tabata.

With his services as a team spokesman no longer in heavy demand, Abreu has taken to quietly tutoring some of the younger Yankees farmhands. His locker neighbor this spring is 18-year-old Jose Tabata, a Venezuelan prospect who has drawn physical comparisons to a young Manny Ramirez.

Abreu spoke extensively with Tabata on Wednesday in Spanish, and said that the promising outfielder has been quizzing the veteran on all aspects of life in the Major Leagues.

"I'm trying to give these young guys as much as I can," Abreu said. "Whenever they ask me for something, I'm very happy and open to them to help them and give them the best advice that I can. Some of them are going to be All-Stars one day, and I hope they'll do the same thing for the young guys someday."

Here's to Abreu remaining in the 3-hole in 2007.

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