Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
Some fellas just know when to step up and make an impact, and Juan Uribe - author of the three-run clout that sprinkled the last bit of dirt over Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday - is one such fella.
Scour all you wish, but you wont find Uribe on the list of top 10 game-changing plays of the Chicago White Soxs 2005 World Series run. He came close, with his heroic defensive efforts to clinch the Series for the White Sox (sprinting into the right-field stands to snag Chris Burkes foul pop for the second out and his super-quick catch-and-fire retirement of Orlando Palmeiro to end the game) both adding 14 percent to the White Sox win probability.
But in contrast to his budding reputation as a playoff hero, Uribe has been a fairly lousy postseason performer. The sleeping Giant simply knows when to pick his spots and when he picks one, he doesnt miss.
For his career, Uribe carries just a .660 OPS into Thursdays Game 2 - thats downright bad, perhaps even duck-and-cover awful. The then-shortstop batted and slugged .800 in the American League Division Series vs. the Boston Red Sox in 2005, but his main clout was a homer in the runaway Game 1 win. He put up an .806 OPS in the 2005 World Series courtesy of three doubles in 16 at-bats, but his offensive output in that series - along with every other hitter on both the White Sox and Houston Astros - was underwhelming.
But overall, you could say Uribe was consistent in the 2005 playoffs, hitting in 10 of 12 games - and one of the games where he went hitless was Game 4 of the World Series, and we all know his ninth-inning defense helped make up for that.
In 2008, Uribe was horrible for the White Sox in the ALDS vs. the Tampa Bay Rays - two hits in 12 at-bats, with five strikeouts. Coupled with his .682 OPS in the 2008 regular season, Uribes work in the 2008 playoffs helped earn him his bus ticket out of town.
This year with the San Francisco Giants, Uribe kicked off the playoffs with his worst series ever - a .205 OPS, with just one hit in 14 at-bats and five strikeouts in the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. Uribe was looking just as bad in this seasons National League Championship Series, heading into Game 5 vs. the Philadelphia Phillies just 1-for-11.
But then came Game 5, when Uribe went 2-for-3 with a home run and reached base three times in four plate appearances. It was unquestionably his greatest playoff game (his .306 Win Probability Added means Uribe alone can claim about one-third of San Franciscos win). In fact, Uribes impact in Game 5 was almost twice as great as any playoff game hed ever played in.
And Wednesday, Uribe had the ultimate all-or-nothing day, chasing his greatest playoff game by maximizing his impact in the World Series opener. The burgeoning Bay Area folk hero offset three strikeouts with that three-run homer that put the game away. It wasnt his second-best playoff game, not even close - but it did wonders to expand his legend.
Uribes hustle that ended the 2005 World Series is very likely the greatest succession of defensive plays to end a Fall Classic, rightfully earning the manic Dominican a place atop the World Series monument in Champions Plaza outside of U.S. Cellular Field. But it takes nothing away from the man that not a soul in Chicago would ever have expected him to be impacting another World Series so positively, some five seasons later.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.