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Uribe: How Could He?

(originally written 11/30/10)

I’m going to play telepathic for a moment and read your collective minds: “If he had to leave, WHY DID HE GO TO THE DODGERS???”

He went to the Dodgers for the same reason Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Rafael Furcal, Shawn Green, Jason Schmidt, and more recently, Hiroki Kuroda and Man-Ram went to (or stayed with) the Dodgers—their home ballpark has spectacular views.


It was the classic massive Dodger overpayout. Juan Uribe hit the slot and came back with three cherries. He would have been a fool not to take the Dodgers’ $21 million and run. Even Bill Neukom would be incredulous. “He turned down what? Obviously he’s not as smart as we gave him credit for.”

So don’t fault him, Giants fans.

I know it stings—for a number of reasons. There’s the historical tie to a beloved ex-Giant from a beloved era (late cousin Jose Uribe). There’s the issue of how Uribe came to be a Giant—swiped off the scrap heap for pennies on the dollar, just the type of success story that tends to win over San Franciscans. The Giant fanbase has a soft reputations—arguably deserved—but it’s always rooted for hard workers, those who grinded, those who fought for their chance and didn’t squander it. Or, to be succinct: underdogs, which the Giants have almost always been since coming to San Fran (don't worry; I'm not here to talk about the past.)

Then there’s Uribe’s on-field success isolated—cuts so mighty, even those that draw air excite the spectators. Majestic (to quote Jon Miller) home runs that always seemed to ice a victory. 6-3 putouts from deep in the hole, made possible only because of Uribe’s phenomenal arm strength. He never had a full-time position, yet he never aired a public complaint. There are guys who can’t handle shuffling around; Uribe was not one of them.

Finally, Uribe’s loss is causing pain because Uribe himself can cause pain. This guy is, by all accounts, a physically powerful person—one you do not want mad at you at any time. Past Giants teams have been businesslike, and not having a "junkyard dog" hurt them at times. Uribe helped alter that image in 2010…and now he’s a Dodger. Oh, there are still a few G-Men not afraid to mix it up but Uribe was the first line of defense. Now that he’s shifted allegiances within the division, not only is he no longer protecting us—we’re just a couple of errant fastballs away from needing protection from him. That does NOT sit well.

It is hard for us, as outsiders, to see beyond the cosmetic side of this transaction. We see “our” shortstop leaving a World Championship team for a fourth-place team whose upper management is in total disarray and whose lower management is inexperienced. We see him leaving his “family”, the people who love him, for our worst enemy. It’s like we the fans never mattered to him at all. We feel cheated for having loved him, never knowing he’d turn on us like he turned on those juicy servings at Wrigley Field in September.

But Uribe is not in a position to be loyal. He’s 32 years old, and he knows he will NEVER see cash like that thrown his way again. This is his one chance to financially secure at least a couple more generations of Uribes. An opportunity like this—especially for someone from the Dominican Republic where opportunities to get rich legally are sparse—he almost had no choice but to jump at it.

Sure, he could have accepted the Giants’ offer of arbitration, but what if he blows out his knee next year? The Giants would have no use for him then, and he’d be but a pleasant memory. That’s the business side of MLB. Juan Uribe is not a stupid man. He’s just a man trying, as President Bush once said, to put food on his family.

Still bitter? Remember the last prominent Giant who went all 1741 on us: the aforementioned Schmitty. The Dodgers ended up paying Schmidt $45 million to make 10 starts—winning three and hurling 43 innings. We swore we’d never forgive our former ace, yet letting him go turned out to be the non-move of the year! Yeah, the Giants blew even more money on Zito. But at least Zito is healthy and taking his regular turns! In three years we could be very happy the Dodgers overspent for Juan—especially if we’ve used that $ to keep Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson in the fold come free agency.

Now, our former hero must live with his choice to turn down free sustenance for life in San Francisco just for $21 lousy million. 

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