Mets getting their money’s worth from Juan Uribe
By Brian Farrell
Juan Uribe is the Mets’ Swiss army knife, and not just because of his positional flexibility. Uribe is filling multiple roles for New York on and off the field and proving to be a shrewd acquisition by Sandy Alderson.
The Mets already had character in the clubhouse –- David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson –- but now they have a character. Whether it’s singing The New Kids on the Block, threatening Wright with Gatorade showers (off camera) or sporting blue suede shoes, Uribe keeps it light. Even in a pennant race he does not forget that he’s a man playing a kid’s game for a living.
Uribe can also boast nicer jewelry than his teammates. He has won World Series rings with both the White Sox and Giants. The Mets players experiencing a pennant race for the first time need not look far for experience under fire. You have to be curious about the kind of impact Uribe could be having on a team like the Nationals as they struggle to live up to expectations. Uribe is not just a jester, he’s also worn the crown.
Thanks to the rings, Uribe was a well-known good luck charm before coming to Queens. The Dodgers had acquired him as a free agent in large part because of his impact to their division rivals. He meant so much to that star-studded Dodger team that teammates erected a shrine to him in their locker room after he left for Atlanta. The Dodgers may have been wise to hold onto their ‘glue guy’ rather than assembling a fantasy team – from 2007.
As recently as Sunday’s win over the Red Sox, Uribe has contributed solid defense and timely hitting to the Mets’ cause. He plated two runs with a big double that put the Mets ahead for good in a pivotal game. The man has a natural flair for the dramatic. Go back and watch his diving catch in the stands against the Astros in the 2004 World Series for further evidence. If his name were Jeter, we’d never hear the end of it.
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Uribe has a classic swing-hard-in-case-you-hit-it approach at the plate, and in big moments he often does. This attitude that is not quite in synch with the team hitting philosophy is one reason he should be one of the first players Terry Collins looks to as a pinch hitter in big games. Coming off the bench and contributing is not something every player can do. Uribe has proven he can do it well by being aggressive.
One more contribution that Uribe is making now might not show up until far down the road, but cannot be overlooked. Uribe’s is the career that Wilmer Flores should aspire to. Wilmer is never going to be Juan off the field or in the clubhouse, but he would be lucky to have a similar career on the field. He should be looking to Uribe as a mentor and following him around like a puppy to soak up his insights.
Wilmer is young, so there is always the hope that his ceiling is higher than what we’re seeing so far, but more likely he’s always going to have to fight for his spot in the lineup on this team. Wright has third locked down, but Flores could see time there when the captain rests his back. Wilmer has shown that he’s not a true short stop, but he’s an acceptable option there for short spells. Second is his best position, but forgive me if I suggest the Mets are a better team if Dilson Herrera realizes his potential and wins that position in the near future if Daniel Murphy moves on.
Juan Uribe is likely a one-and-done player for the Mets, so Flores can assume his infield super utility role on next year’s team. A solid major league career can be had if you can provide a team with defensive flexibility and be counted on for an aggressive approach in big spots at the plate. Wilmer has already shown his own flair for the dramatic. If he is watching Uribe and learning how to have a big impact in a smaller role, that could be a great thing for the Mets this year and down the road.