TEMPE, Ariz. - On the night the Phillies won the World Series, he sat in his apartment high above the streets of New York, eyes fixed on the high-definition screen. He'd been waiting for this moment for a long time.
"I was rooting for them. I was screaming, 'Let's go!' at the television whenever they made a great play or scored some runs," he said.
And when it was over, when Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske and the celebration began, Bobby Abreu admits that tears came to his eyes.
"I was crying in a happy way because I know how hard they worked for that and how important it is to win the World Series. A lot of things were crossing my mind," Abreu, the Phillies' regular rightfielder from 1998 until he was traded in the middle of the 2006 season, said yesterday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
On the day the Phillies parade went down Broad Street, Abreu flew home to his native Venezuela.
Coming off a year when he batted .296 for the Yankees with his customary 100 runs scored and 100 RBI, still just 34 years old, becoming a free agent for the first time, he expected that it wouldn't take long for him to find out where he would be playing this year.
Instead, he waited again. And waited and waited and waited.
It wasn't until last week, as spring-training camps were opening, that he agreed to a 1-year contract with the Angels that will pay him $5 million plus incentives. That's a big comedown from the $18 million he made in the Bronx last season, from the 3-year, $48 million deal he was reportedly seeking.
Then again, he wasn't alone. Several big-name stars were still looking for work. One, in fact, is Garret Anderson, who the Angels chose not to re-sign and is still on the market. Now Abreu will take his place.
The Angels had said they weren't going to add any more players before the season started. But the chance to pick up a lifetime .300 career who has a career .405 on-base percentage for relative chump change proved too much to pass up.
Abreu will have to make the adjustment to playing left in a four-man outfield/designated hitter rotation that also includes Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera. He also will bat second instead of his customary third.
Hunter, the centerfielder, had been keeping a close eye on the list of still-unemployed stars and was thrilled when he learned that Abreu had been added to the lineup.
"Even a week ago I was looking at Ken Griffey to Adam Dunn to Bobby Abreu, Manny Ramirez, Orlando Hudson, Orlando Cabrera. All these guys were still out there," he said. "That's an All-Star team right there. And I was thinking, if we get any of those guys, it makes our lineup that much better. I'm thinking, 'Wow, how can [all those guys] be out there?' And we got one of those guys.
"Bobby Abreu would help out any lineup in major league baseball. Man, look at our lineup. OK, we're pretty good. But when you add Bobby Abreu, it makes it that much better. And we're getting him at the beginning of the season instead of the second half like we did with Mark Teixeira last year. And look what happened when we got Teixeira. Everybody's numbers skyrocketed. He changed the dynamic of the lineup. And that's what we're doing at the beginning of the season with adding Bobby Abreu."
Added manager Mike Scioscia: "There were years when Bobby, coming off the season he had, would have gotten a bigger deal. But the resources around baseball right now are projected to be a little tight because of the economy. Some clubs are a little limited in what they can do."
Abreu insisted he's fine with the huge pay cut he had to take.
"It took a long time, but it's worth it. I'm with a good team. I've got a job," he said. "I haven't lost my game. Of course, I was looking for a 3-year deal or a 4-year deal. But that's the way things are right now."
Abreu is still waiting to play in a World Series, still waiting to ride in a parade. In the meantime, he's living vicariously through the team he spent 8 1/2 years with. During the playoffs, he sent messages to Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. And after the Phillies won, he spoke to Rollins.
"I was talking to J-Roll and I don't know who was more happy, him or me," he said. And then he smiled, the kind of smile that made you understand that he really meant it, the kind of smile he must have had that night late last October when the Phillies finally won it all. *