Somewhere amidst the palms-up home runs, the oblique-pulling hacks and automatic 0-2 counts, before the .230-something averages but after making two of the greatest outs in World Series history on two consecutive plays, people forgot about something kind of weird but also kind of cool: for two months in 2004, Juan Uribe was awesome.
It almost seemed pointless at the time, the Sox sending promising young (and switch-hitting) second baseman Aaron Miles to Colorado for promising, so-so second baseman Uribe, a guy so grossly aided by Coors Field he was actually able to finish the 2001 season with the second-most triples in the National League despite a) only playing 72 games and b) not exactly having a build designed for taking the extra base. But, as with most moves the Sox made leading into the 2004 season, this one hardly seemed important, let alone consequential.
Uribe introduced himself to us that season by hitting .393 in April and .303 in May. His on-base numbers were entirely non-spectacular, as they would be the rest of his time here, but there was this weird electricity to Uribe: the Sox, for the first time in a long time, had a second baseman who could absolutely rake. Not that Ray-Ray or Joey Cora were slouches by any measure, but in those days Uribe first showed us the kind of schizophrenic authority that would define his tenure on the South Side. The hot stretches would burn with the intensity of hell, while the cold stretches would ice over months, if not entire seasons.
And sure, after the glow of his marvelous work at short in 2005 wore off, Uribe’s style (not unlike Uribe himself) got old in a hurry. The power surges became more sporadic, the defensive wizardry would disappear, the baserunning that won him all those triples was essentially non-existent. By 2008, he was out of a starting job once everyone realized how good a player Alexei Ramirez is, and were it not for the Sox having not just an ailing third baseman but also an ailing third base prospect, he might have simply faded away as so many players tend to do.
Instead, we and he got one last chance to end things on a high note. We all knew he was not long for Chicago after this season, but were it not for his defense in lieu of Joe Crede and Josh Fields the Sox would most likely not have accomplished what little they managed in the final push into the playoffs. He might not have given them much, but for a little while he at least gave them a chance. Uribe meant everything even though he actually meant nothing.
He’s kind of crafty like that.