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Columnist
Now it's up to Uribe to show Sox were right
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 11/8/2007 12:28 AM

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With the White Sox, you just have to expect the unexpected.

The latest surprise came Wednesday, when the Sox announced that shortstop Juan Uribe is coming back for another year.

Yes, that is the same Uribe who finished the 2007 season tied for the worst on-base percentage (.284) in major-league baseball. Seattle's Jose Lopez and Kansas City's Tony Pena Jr. also had a .284 OBP.

As for his .234 batting average, Uribe ranked second-to-last in the American League, trailing only Minnesota's Nick Punto (.210).

Simply put, the 29-year old infielder was a bad player on an equally bad White Sox team.

But, unlike Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, A.J. Pierzynski and just about everybody else in the Sox' starting lineup, Uribe's struggles cannot be dismissed as a blip.

After batting .284 in 2004, his first season on the South Side, Uribe's average has dropped to .252 to .235 to .234.

Yes, he did tie his career high with 34 walks in '07, but Uribe's surprising discipline was canceled out by his 112 strikeouts.

Even before they finished with their worst record (72-90) since 1989, the White Sox talked and talked about how they needed to find players capable of handling the bat.

The Sox also talked about the need to add some speed, and Uribe is coming off a season where he stole a grand total of one base in 10 attempts.

True, it's not easy finding quality shortstops. And if the White Sox are waiting for one of their minor-leaguers to develop, they might as well have given Uribe a 10-year contract rather than the one-year, $4.5 million deal he agreed to Wednesday.

Edgar Renteria was out there, but AL Central rival Detroit landed the five-time all-star in a trade from Atlanta shortly after the World Series ended.

David Eckstein is a free agent after batting .309 with St. Louis. Maybe the Sox think he is too old -- the scrappy Eckstein turns 33 on Jan. 20 -- or too pricey.

No matter the reasoning, it sure looks like they are going to stick with Uribe for at least another year.

But with the White Sox being the White Sox, maybe general manager Kenny Williams trades Uribe and winds up with Miguel Tejada. Or Jack Wilson. Or Khalil Greene.

Remember, it was Williams who dealt popular center fielder Aaron Rowand to Philadelphia for Jim Thome less than a month after winning the World Series in 2005.

Williams also traded Brandon McCarthy to Texas last winter after the lanky right-hander was widely christened as the Sox' future No. 1 starter.

Since taking over as GM seven years ago, Williams also has stuck his neck out by letting Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez depart as free agents and trading Carlos Lee.

He is going to take similar heat for sticking with Uribe, but Williams is deft when it comes to tuning out negative reaction, whether it comes from the media, fan base or both.

Maybe this is just another case of being loyal to a player who helped the Sox win their first World Series in 88 years.

For as much as his overall game has slipped since 2005, Uribe still is blessed with one of the better throwing arms in the game. Only Tejada (65) and Cleveland's Jhonny Peralta (58) have hit more home runs than Uribe (64) over the past three seasons.

Who knows, maybe Uribe will stay out of trouble this winter and shed the 10-15 pounds needed to regain his former stature.

When he came to the Sox from Colorado in a trade four years ago, Uribe's attitude was the biggest concern.

Don't worry about that, he has been a very good fit in the clubhouse and Uribe interacts quite well despite speaking limited English.

But do worry about what Uribe has done in the recent past, and apparently will do in 2008 as the White Sox' starting shortstop.