Every year, when it comes time to vote for postseason awards, many sportswriters ignore players who perform for teams on the West Coast, because the games begin when voters are going to bed. I'd like to take this opportunity to educate my colleagues on those Dodgers who need to be considered for awards.
The Dodgers have the best starter in baseball. Yes, other starters have more wins than Clayton Kershaw because their teams have supported them better offensively. Nevertheless, Kershaw has the lowest ERA in the Major Leagues. He leads the NL in WHIP and strikeouts. He has pitched the most innings in the league. The hitters dislike facing Kershaw because he has allowed the lowest batting average. If a hitter reaches base, he shouldn't try to steal a base, because between Kershaw's superb pickoff move and A.J. Ellis strong, accurate throwing arm, the likelihood of him safely reaching the next base is slim.
I have watched baseball since 1978. Never before had I felt that every time a starter took the mound, he had the possibility of hurling a no-hitter. However, with Kershaw, I am prepared to write about his first no-hitter any time. He has the best curveball that I have ever seen, and I can watch it break on television, a rarity. When he added a slider to his repertoire just before the 2011 season, he completed his dominance and won the NL Cy Young Award. At the All-Star Game this year, when manager Bruce Bochy chose Matt Harvey -- the Mets' young phenom -- to start at Citi Field, I was disappointed. To me, Kershaw definitely deserves the second NL Cy Young Award in his six-year career.
The unsung hero of the Dodgers is Juan Uribe. Coming off his first two years with the Dodgers -- when he had multiple injuries that affected his play -- Uribe has been a lifesaver for the Dodgers. To begin this season, manager Don Mattingly named Luis Cruz as the starting third baseman as a reward for Cruz's performance in 2012, and I agreed with his decision. After all, Cruz came through with several important hits while playing nearly flawless defense. However, this season, Cruz lost his offensive magic. He couldn't hit above .100 and showed no power. While his defense remained outstanding, Cruz's inability to hit contributed to the Dodgers' offensive woes. The club finally had to release him because he was hurting the team.
The Dodgers had three candidates on the team who could play third base. Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston, Jr. aren't everyday players anymore. Early in the season, Mattingly used Uribe sparingly as a pinch-hitter or a defensive replacement. The jolly Uribe delivered and helped his team win, never griping about his lack of playing time.
As Uribe played more, the Dodgers began to win. He has had many two-out hits that have scored runs and prolonged rallies. Usually, he hits at the bottom of the lineup, making it more fearsome. Before Uribe played regularly, the opposition thought the bottom of the lineup was weak and lacked power. Now, although Uribe won't hit .300, he's a solid .260 hitter who has power. In his limited playing time, he has hit seven homers.
Defensively, Uribe has been excellent. He looks like an atypical third baseman with his barrel chest. People assume that he has slow reflexes because he is a big man, but the opposite is true. With his background as a shortstop, he has adequate range and a strong, accurate arm, enabling him to make the longest throws from third with relative ease. His quick reflexes enable him to catch hard-hit balls and turn them into outs. Many baseball people, including myself, who watch the Dodgers on a daily basis think Uribe deserves to win a Gold Glove Award.
While Uribe was a reserve player or getting periodic rests, he always encouraged his teammates. Even when Uribe battled many injuries during his first two years with the Dodgers, he never lost his good humor. Uribe has demonstrated leadership skills, especially with players from Latin America, and with Yasiel Puig after Puig came to the Dodgers. During Monday's game, when Puig was upset about a strike call, Uribe was the one who followed Puig into the tunnel to calm him down. If he hadn't, Puig might have been ejected.
To me, Uribe also deserves the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award. While other Dodgers catch more headlines than Uribe, he has been a major contributor to the Dodgers' recent success.