Parting ways has benefitted Angels and Abreu

LOS ANGELES — Bobby Abreu knew his days as an Angel were numbered.

“You could see that was the way it was headed in spring (training),” said Abreu, who has had a rebirth of sorts with the Dodgers. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, so I prepared myself for anything.” Including his inevitable release. This paved the way for Mike Trout to become an American League All Star and a major-league sensation.

Abreu was hitting .208 when the Halos sent him packing, and Trout’s rise has been meteoric. As of July 6, the Angels’ centerfielder is batting .348 and has stolen 26 bases to lead the league in both categories. He is eighth in runs scored with 54, despite playing at Triple A Salt Lake City until April 28th. He’s the only player ever to have 10 homers and 20 stolen bases by the All Star break — without having any of either in the month of April. While the consistent Abreu can’t approach his replacement’s numbers, he’s helped the Dodgers remain in first place despite a never ending spate of injuries.

“When I came here, I wasn’t guaranteed any playing time,” Abreu said, “but they told me I would play. And that’s all I ever want — an opportunity — and then I can take advantage of it. It’s not good that it came because some of the guys like Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier got hurt, but I’m glad I was here to help.”

The 38-year-old Venezuelan has picked up 20 RBIs in 60 games, with an OBP of .349 and a slugging percentage of .358. He’s hitting a un-Abreu like .248 as of Friday night, but the consistency he’s shown throughout his career is still there more often than not.  Of his 41 hits, 13 have been for extra bases — 2 HR, 10 doubles and one triple — and he’s scored 22 runs. But it’s the two-baggers that have always separated Abreu from the rest.

He’s second among active players with 564 doubles, trailing Colorado’s Todd Helton by just three. He’s 23rd on the all-time doubles list, ahead of Hall of Famers such as Eddie Murray, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Frank Robinson and Ted Williams.

“Consistency has always been the thing for me,” he said in the Dodger clubhouse recently. “That’s probably the best way to describe me. I have a lot of pride in how I approach the game and doing everything I can to help my team win.” When Abreu was signed by the Dodgers on May 4, the team was nine games above .500 in the National League West. It immediately jumped to 17, and when the Dodgers went into a late June tailspin that saw them lose eight in a row — five by shutout — Abreu’s steadying veteran presence helped keep the team from falling into an abyss.

“All of our reserves stepped up one way or another,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly said, “but Bobby was great.  It wasn’t our intention to have him play so many games, but when it became necessary, he came through for us. This guy has been one of the most consistent players in the last 10-15 years, and he still good.”

With the way Abreu has performed for L.A. so far in 2012 and the praise he’s earned from his teammates and manager, some might be wondering why the Angels cut him loose. Manager Mike Scioscia explained that it wasn’t about Abreu losing his skills; it was about Trout starting to refine his.

“Mike broke the door down,” said Scioscia, “and he came busting through it. There was no way we could keep him out of the majors the way he was playing. It was tough to see Bobby go; he played great for us while he was here. But (Trout) was ready—maybe more than ready—and you can see what he’s done since he came up.”

For Trout, it was the beginning of what should be a brilliant career. For Abreu, it was a successful new beginning, and he’s said he’d like to keep playing “maybe three or four more years.” And he wouldn’t mind staying with the Dodgers.

“This is a great place,” Abreu said,” and we have a lot good young players. This (organization) is committed to winning and I’d be happy to be part of that.”

Another organization he’d like to be part of is the Baseball Hall of Fame, and with his career numbers–.292 BA, 286 HR, 1345 RBI, 1445 walks, 1434 runs scored, 395 stolen bases and the 564 doubles—he’ll certainly get some serious consideration.

“Sure, it would be nice to be there,” said Abreu, who has also played with the Astros, Phillies and Yankees, and is tied with Willie Mays for the all-time record of playing in 150 or more games in 13 consecutive seasons. “But that’s still a ways down the road. It’s not really in my hands when it comes to voting, but yeah, that would be great to be with all those great players.”