Cubs: 2020 MVP winners show what the Cubs lacked – an offensive leader

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

Both Freddie Freeman and Jose Abreu led offensively, unlike any Cubs player.

You know what. I don’t care there are plenty of Cubs fans who will be salty over a White Sox player winning MVP. But there are few guys in the game nicer and more deserving than Jose Abreu. The same can be said of Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who ran away with the Senior Circuit’s top honors on Thursday night.

Both men are first-time winners – and carried the weight for their respective clubs offensively. That’s not a knock against any of their teammates. We know what’s coming of age on the South Side with Abreu as its leader. And come on. No pitcher looked forward to facing the Braves, with Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., Marcell Ozuna and the likes standing in the box.

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In the abbreviated 60-game season, Abreu was an offensive juggernaut, driving in a league-best 60 runs with 19 home runs, 15 doubles and a .317/.370/.617 line in 240 at-bats. Last offseason he showed his loyalty to the White Sox organization, all but demanding they re-sign him to lead the club into a new era. They did – and he’s rewarded the Sox with their first MVP winner since Hall of Famer Frank Thomas back in 1997.

As for Freeman, what can we say that hasn’t been said already? He battled back from an early season COVID-19 diagnosis that led to him losing nine pounds to put up a .341/.462/.640 line with 13 long balls and an impressive 45 walks to just 37 strikeouts. The Braves first baseman is one of the best all-field hitters in the game today – and he made that painfully evident in 2020.

So this is a Cubs site. Why are we talking about a White Sox and Braves player? Because their accomplishments and what they meant to their teams couldn’t be more clear. They led, not just in the clubhouse and in the community, but also on the field – something few Cubs players can say.

As a team, we know the story offensively. Yet again, Chicago was inconsistent and faded hard down the stretch. Under Manager of the Year finalist and first-year skipper David Ross, the Cubs made the postseason – only to be shown the door in the first round by the Miami Marlins.

Of their usual anchors – Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber – none managed an OPS north of .762. Baez and Bryant were downright awful – with some measures even suggesting the Cubs shortstop was one of the worst offensive players in all of Major League Baseball this season.

Without Jason Heyward – that’s right, Jason Heyward – it’s hard to envision Chicago squeaking out their NL Central division title. He carried the weight for much of the season alongside Ian Happ who, like many of his teammates, faded late in the year.

Even looking past the winners in the MVP race, take a look at the finalists. What do Mookie Betts, Manny Machado, DJ LeMahieu and Jose Ramirez all have in common? They played for postseason clubs – which, sure, was a little easier accomplishment with expanded postseason fields this year. But still. Good teams need those imposing offensive presences. And, frankly, that’s something the Cubs flat-out lacked this year.

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We know the roster should – key word there being ‘should’ – look different when camp opens in February. The offense has gone stale and the status quo isn’t a viable option moving forward. But there will be carryover – and if Chicago can’t get even one of the aforementioned core pieces to return to form – 2021 could be a long season on the north side of the Windy City.