13 February 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #3: Juan Uribe, IF

I sing the song of Juan Uribe, second cousin of José, also known as UUU! RIBE!, the only man I've ever seen do a bat flip after connecting on a sacrifice fly, a good Giant once, but a Giant no more. Remember the looks on the faces of Philly phans when Juan's lawn dart eeked over the right field wall for an Oppo Taco? Like somebody ralphed on their cheesesteaks. Like they just shat themselves thinking about the season of their dreams being undone by this career reserve infielder who'd rediscovered himself with the Orange and Black. I really had to feel for them. We all should feel for them. You and me, we've been there, right? But there are two truths to this situation: 1. Philly got their title in 2008, everything else this decade will be gravy from a long-term perspective; and 2. Juan Uribe was preordained to hit that dinger.

"Jazz Hands" was an anomaly. He was a freak of nature. There won't be any way of knowing before Opening Day if the uniform gave him a lift. But I like to think that Jose's spirit seeped into the No. 5 jersey over the past two years, and found its way into Juan. His overall numbers won't show it, but every one of his 24 homers and 24 doubles in 2010 seemed to come in a clutch situation, and each of his 85 RBI seemed to win a game. He filled the void left by Pablo Sandoval's regression (and expansion), which could have sunk a lesser team with a shallower bench. Brian Sabean assembled quite the ragtag band of misfits, but he didn't splurge in any one area — beyond the obvious, ahem, Zito, ahem. He spread the payroll and built a very deep team around a killer pitching staff. And when it was time for them to shine, they all did, each in his own way.

Juan Uribe's entire raison d'etre as a Giant seemed to be to disrupt the confidence of the other team, to discourage the opposition with tomahawk chop, yuckadoo swings that either sent balls flying into the bleachers or into the stands directly behind the plate. He truly has no two-strike adjustment, swinging just as hard 0-2 as he does 2-0. And we may never know if he's allowed to swing away at 3-0 because he hardly ever gets that deep into an at bat. If there's any one thing that Miguel Tejada can replicate for the 2011 Post-Uribe Giants, it's that intensity. But his impeccable timing may prove difficult to match. We can only hope Juan doesn't come around to stick his jazz hands up our behinds like Rick Vaughn in the heat of a pennant race.

The day Uribe signed with the Hated Ones for just a few dollars more than the Giants were willing to offer over a slightly longer time period, I tweeted a good baseball friend: "I'm going to miss is our call and response." See, whenever Juan yanked one into the cheap seats, I'd unleash a joyous @ tweet to him: "UUUUUU!" and he'd respond in kind with "RIBE!". It started around mid-season and became a little tradition. A few minutes later, my friend tweeted back: "I guess we'll have to find another player to obsess over." Brandon Belt, anyone?

Thanks, UUU! RIBE!!!

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