Thomas: Missed chance for Abreu

Updated: July 14, 2014, 7:20 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

Jose Abreu is a first-time All-Star, but former Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas wishes the rookie who leads the majors in homers was participating in Monday's Home Run Derby, not just Tuesday's game.

Over the weeks leading up the game at Target Field, Abreu told reporters numerous times he didn't want to participate in the event because he feared it would alter his hitting mechanics.

[+] EnlargeAbreu
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhWhite Sox rookie Jose Abreu leads the majors at the break with 29 home runs.

Abreu, a 27-year-old rookie out of Cuba, is one of the best stories in baseball, leading the majors with 29 homers at the break. Thomas, a former home run derby winner and the White Sox's all-time leading home run hitter, believes Abreu is missing out on a chance to brand himself in the national baseball spotlight.

"I'm disappointed," Thomas told ESPN Chicago in a phone conversation from Minneapolis on Sunday. "He's a breakout star. He needs to let the world know who Jose Abreu is."

But Abreu - who participated in five homer-hitting contests in his native Cuba - didn't express any regrets.

"I've always felt (that) what I do, I need to do with a goal and objective," Abreu said through an interpreter. "I've done the Home Run Derby five times in Cuba. I never won it. I always said, when I was asked about it, I wasn't going to participate. If given the opportunity in the future, maybe I'll consider it, but no, I don't have any regrets about that."

Thomas, who will be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame this month, will be at the Home Run Derby for a promotional appearance with Gillette, the title sponsor of the derby. Thomas has some history at this event.

He won the event in 1995 in Arlington, Texas, but it was the prior year he made his mark.

At the 1994 derby at Three Rivers Stadium, Thomas hit only four home runs, but one of them went 519 feet, which is considered the longest homer in the park's history. The Pirates marked the shot with a star on the seat it hit.

Abreu's six-year, $68 million contract was the biggest ever given to a Cuban player with no major league experience and the most total money allotted to a White Sox player. It looks like a bargain.

"He's a special player," said Thomas, the White Sox's career leader with 448 homers over 16 seasons with the club. "I talked to him a couple times earlier in the year. He's humble, very religious, very centered."

Despite missing two weeks in May, Abreu's first 82 games have resulted in a .292/.342/.630 slash line. He leads baseball in slugging percentage, isolated power average (.339) and at-bats per home run (11.1) and is tied for third in extra-base hits (50) and RBIs (73).

"He's 27, he's in his prime," Thomas said. "That's when you're at your best. He's showing you what he's got going."

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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