The move was widely panned at the time as another attempt at recapturing a veteran’s lost youth, but Brian Sabean struck gold when he signed Juan Uribe to a minor league contract before the season. OK, maybe not gold, but at least tungsten, or perhaps even bronze or silver. And we all know how Sabes cherishes his jewelry. Of course, since every positive Sabes deal has an equally negative transaction one can point to, it’s almost painful to look at Edgar Renteria’s 2-year, $18 million contract Sabean signed him to several weeks earlier.
Nothing much can be done now, and for Giant fans’ and investors’ sanity we all might as well pretend that the Renteria/Uribe combo are averaging $5 million per season between them. After all, they’re pretty much the same player, except Renteria has the bigger name and Uribe swings the bigger stick. Defensively, both guys are similar: fairly sure-handed, with somewhat limited range due to questionable conditioning habits.
After Uribe’s tour de force yesterday (2-for-4, a deep homer to left and the best defensive play a Giants’ 2B has made all year), one has to wonder: why isn’t he starting at second base every day?
The easy answer is the Giants are built on pitching and defense, and theoretically the Giants would like to be strong up the middle. Since Renteria has only slightly better range than Ozzie Guillen these days (and on that, I’m only guessing), the Giants have tried to counteract that with two speedy youngsters — Emmanuel Burriss (amazing range, but similar to Fred Lewis in that he often screws up once he gets to the ball) and now Matt Downs.
However, whether it’s statistically or anecdotally, the offense is of far greater concern to the Giants’ postseason hopes than whether or not their second baseman’s zone rating is higher than the league average. I’d say Matt Downs has a brighter future with the Giants than Kevin Frandsen or perhaps even Burriss (the Giants may have screwed up Burriss permanently when the moved him up after only a couple weeks in Fresno last year), but Downs is still hitting .212. He should be the backup defensive replacement on this team, with Uribe’s bat (currently hitting .298) in the lineup.
Wait, you want more reasons why Uribe should be the regular second baseman, and not the jack-of-all-infield-positions he’s done extremely well since coming to the NL?
1. I’m obviously a believer in Nate Schierholtz (which is why I’m not hot on trading for Jermaine Dye four years too late, since I’m not sure Dye’s second half would be much of an upgrade over Schierholtz or Randy Winn, who surely has at least one more hot streak left in him), and I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of Travis Ishikawa playing first every day. Face it, if Ishikawa ends the year hitting .265-.275 with 15 homers while playing good-to-great defense at first base, the Giants would take that in a heartbeat. That leaves second base as the black eye/hole of the defense, and there isn’t a GM in baseball who wants to trade a decent one to the Giants for anything less than one or two of the blue chip prospects. Yes, what I’m saying is I’ve given up on the Giants procuring Dan Uggla from the Marlins.
2. The Giants are 20-14 (which over 162 games would translate to a 95-win season) when Uribe gets at least 3 PA’s, meaning they’re 21-20 when he doesn’t. Not the most conclusive stat in the world, but since I spent the time to count up those records I might as well use them. Hey, I’d like to see you spend your afternoon counting wins and losses from Uribe’s 2009 Game Log!
3. On a team full of streaky hitters (Winn, Aaron Rowand and Bengie Molina being the streakiest), it would be nice to roll with a player who’s been as consistent at the plate as any Giant this season. The fact Uribe’s been able to hit .280 in April, .315 in May and .290 in June, while playing every position besides rover, has been fairly remarkable seeing as he didn’t even have a guaranteed roster spot in March.
4. Only two other Giants on the roster have ever hit 20 homers in a season, Rowand and Rich “Watch out J.T., I’m comin’ for your job” Aurilia.
5. You can win with a dependable, range-free (but maybe not organic) second baseman. Remember Jeff Kent? Uribe’s isn’t Kent at the plate, but Downs isn’t Uribe, either.
There are reasons to be wary when it comes to handing Uribe the keys: he hasn’t hit left-handed pitching at all this season (although his career splits have shown him to be freakishly similar against righties and lefties), he adds yet another impatient hitter to the swingingest lineup in baseball and a starting infield where the fittest player mans first base just seems wrong on so many levels. It’s like a football team where the punter can bench the most.
With this offense (second fewest runs scored in the NL, ahead of the Padres), it’s pretty tough to worry about any of those things. Unless Burriss, Frandsen and Downs could somehow combine all their good qualities and avail themselves of their less attractive ones, or the Giants somehow getting Uggla for Jonathan Sanchez, Fred Lewis and a case of Ranch-flavored sunflower seeds, Uribe should start the majority of the remaining games at second base. And while we’re at it, maybe Renteria could throw $2-4 million Uribe’s way, just to make it fair.
Have an opinion on this hot topic (SGL’s favorite store, by the way…j/k lol)? Vote in the new poll on the right side of your screen. Remember, Sabes is watching us, Sabes is watching us, Sabes is watching us…from a distance.