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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Uribe went and hurt me, baby!
You didn't have to be that cruel!

by George Bova

Juan Uribe is back. He's back and he only cost our Sox $4.5 million for one year. For those of you keeping score at home, that's a $500,000 discount on what was his option specified. It also saves the Sox what otherwise would have been a $300,000 buyout. Such a deal!

With all these savings Kenny Williams can pick up some truly useful spare parts for the 2008 championship push. The Sox will be able to afford nearly two whole ballplayers earning the major league minimum. This should come in especially handy next September when the roster expands to 40 ballplayers. It will be like only paying for 38.

Sure this is just top spin, but when you're a Sox Fan these days you'll take all the top spin you can get.

The truth is Juan Uribe was one of probably 3-4 everyday position players Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen realistically hoped to upgrade for 2008 over last season. With Uribe back in the fold, that leaves only left field, center field and perhaps third base as places to fix the 2008 line up. If the everyday Sox line up looks different next year, it most-definitely will be the top of the line up that features new ballplayers because the bottom appears set. Perhaps this isn't such a bad thing?

If Ozzie can be faulted for anything handling the everyday line up the last two seasons, it was attempting to make Juan Uribe into anything more than a #9 hitter. Not only was this "Uribe as #2 hitter" experiment from Spring Training, 2006 a failure; it might well have marked the beginning of the end for Tadahito Iguchi as the primary catalyst for what was a world championship line up from 2005. Guillen had visions of Iguchi hitting home runs from the #7 spot while Uribe became the new #2 hitter. The entire plan was such an abject failure, Ozzie scrapped it before the team ever left Arizona.

Now Iguchi is gone having never duplicated his production from the championship season and the two Sox ballplayers trusted to lead-off the last two seasons, Scott Podsednik and Darrin Erstad, aren't to be trusted again either.

Why was Ozzie so anxious to move Uribe up in the line up? Maybe Ozzie knew too well what the rest of Sox Fandom learned the hard way: Brian Anderson couldn't be trusted to deliver anything. Uribe's #9 spot wasn't available as long as Anderson was being handed the everyday centerfield position. "Handed" is the operative word here. No way does Anderson get the everyday job if Aaron Rowand isn't traded, and no way is Rowand traded unless the player received in-kind isn't as key to the offense as new DH Jim Thome has proven to be.

And why were Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen counting on Anderson to fill the everyday role in center field? Simple. Their next-best choice was a double-A ballplayer named Chris Young, a ballplayer so undeveloped he couldn't even break into the everyday line up of the 2006 Arizona Diamondbacks. Though he managed to beat the Cubs this past season with a well-timed home run in the playoffs (earning spiteful acclaim from Chicago's very own dopes, Phil Rogers and Dan McGrath), he still struck out 141 times. Perhaps Rogers and McGrath love Young because his strike out totals remind them so much of the cheat and fraud they never once took to task while he still played in Chicago, Sammy Sosa?

The problem with a line up containing both Uribe and Anderson is that only one of them can bat #9. This was the problem Ozzie faced in 2006. And now with Uribe back for 2008, Ozzie almost certainly must pencil-in Uribe's name in the #9 slot all over again. Guillen really has no choice because Uribe will always be the free swinger he always has been. He can't be trusted to bat any higher than #9 any more than Brian Anderson ever could.

That's the real problem with re-signing Uribe. It puts all the pressure on Williams to figure out to re-build the top of the line up and simultaneously fill precisely two available everyday positions: left field and center field. The shortstop position is already taken.

Sure Williams can always trade away one of the other everyday positions to find an everyday lead-off man and #2 hitter, but this is merely fixing the problem by making an even bigger problem to solve. Making the problem bigger is precisely what re-signing Uribe represents. Williams has sacrificed what little flexibility he had to find a shortstop capable of hitting #1 or #2 and thus relieving the need to find either a leftfielder or centerfielder capable of the same.

Finding a lead-off man and #2 hitter is enough work without requiring they play left and center field, too. Or should we simply begin dismantling key components of the Sox roster just to accommodate a free-swinging #9 hitting shortstop? Didn't think so.

The best that can be said about re-signing Uribe is that the alternatives weren't any better. Though his salary seems rich, it's a poorly-kept secret that Major League Baseball is presently raking in larger profits than ever before and player salaries will continue their upward spiral -- virtually an unbroken trend going back to the mid-70's. Shocking as it might seem, Uribe might look like a bargain at $4.5 million for 1 year by the time next winter rolls around!

Uribe is here. He's decent on defense. He throws more accurately than Jose Valentin and ranges into the hole to complete outs more in a single week than Royce Clayton ever did in a month. His play -- both with his bat and his glove -- provided some of the most memorable moments in the 2005 playoffs. We could do worse than have him around.

Too bad we couldn't have done better.

David Bromberg said it best. "I will not be your fool!"


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive. You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

More features from George Bova here!

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Uribe went and hurt me, baby?

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