Culver City Observer -

Dodgers Are Missing Juan Uribe

 


By Steven Lieberman

Observer Reporter

Several people have approached me recently complaining about the Dodgers’ slump and poor performance. They blame manager Don Mattingly, pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers failure to produce runs, among many other complaints.

In my mind, veteran third-baseman Juan Uribe, traded to the Atlanta Braves on May 27, is one of the key variables in the equation of the Dodgers downslide.

He was beloved in the Dodgers’ clubhouse and on the field for four seasons. His humor lit up the other players, especially Yasiel Puig, whose spark seems to have dimmed since the departure of Uribe, his good buddy.

On the field, Uribe, 36, displayed a powerful arm on his throws to first base and an explosive swing when at the plate.

His star is burning bright for the Braves as Uribe’s batting average has risen from .247 to .305, giving him a total of .281 between both teams this season. And the Dodgers record since the trade is an even 20 wins, 20 losses as of July 6. Before the trade, their record was 27-17.

The players the Dodgers received in return for Uribe and pitcher Chris Withrow – Alberto Callaspo, pitchers Eric Stults, Juan Jaime and Ian Thomas – so far have not panned-out.

Uribe brought much experience to the Dodgers, having been on two World Series champion teams – Chicago White Sox (2005) and the San Francisco Giants (2010). He was also Wilson Defensive Player of the Year as a Dodger in consecutive years – 2013-2014.

But it was Uribe’s desire for more playing time that facilitated his departure as he fell further down the Dodgers’ depth chart at third base. His production at the plate was so low to start off the season that not even his defensive greatness could prevent his demotion.

“With how Justin Turner was playing and how Alex Guerrero was playing, I know Donnie was very active in his communication with Juan about what’s going on, and things were changing daily,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said at the time of the trade.

“Throughout the conversations, his agent reached out and said ‘Juan wants to play’.”

Uribe was pushed into the role of a bench player due to the good performance by Turner and Guerrero. And this caused him to be a tougher fit, but never a distraction. Uribe was always upbeat in the clubhouse and a team-player.

“His playing time here had been down, and I knew through conversations with him he wanted to play more,” Mattingly said. “When a guy is not happy, and he hasn’t been happy with his situation for the last couple of weeks, then it’s never good”

Callaspo seemed like a better fit at the time since he can play multiple positions and Uribe is limited to third base.

But ultimately, this was about clearing an eventual spot for second baseman Hector Olivera, who is still in the minors for the Dodgers, getting in shape for his future call-up to the majors.

He is rehabbing a hamstring injury and finally got to play in his first game with the rookie-level Arizona League Dodgers, going 1-3, with a single and scoring two runs as the designated hitter.

There is no timetable for his call-up to the MLB. He has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order bat.

In a ‘what have you done for me lately” environment, Uribe wasn’t given the opportunity to show improvement due to the depth on the team.

It seems to me that sometimes a situation should be viewed beyond just the ‘x’s and o’s’, but since professional sports is a business first and players are evaluated objectively, and by salary considerations, great players can become expendable.

So Uribe is now lighting it up for the Braves and getting more playing time while the Dodgers continue to struggle in the clubhouse and on the field without him.

On July 11 at Dodger Stadium it will be Juan Uribe Bobblehead day. Most likely, he will get a round of applause from a sold-out crowd.

 

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