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Pretty Uggla

August 23, 2011


It was something my future brother-in-law said that made me pull out my go to reaction when trying to hide my own ignorance, or the fact that I am out of the loop. "You guys got Dan Uggla." That was it: five words. I nodded my head and muttered something to the extent that yeah, hopefully that helps. I knew he was a baseball player, and I was pretty sure he played for the Florida Marlins; and the fact that I kind of recognized the name of a non-Brave player told me that he must be halfway decent or somewhat of an idiot--you know, the kind of guy who drives in reverse on the interstate, drunk, locked, and loaded.

I then feigned going to the bathroom, but actually made a bypass of it, and looked up Dan Uggla's stats and I liked what I saw: a second baseman who consistently hit more than his age in home runs. I then returned to the room my future brother-in-law was in, head held high, dreaming of a postseason filled with tomahawk chops, and said, "yeah, he's gonna definitely boost the offense. . . hitting either before or after McCann in the lineup. . . you know, McCann's the only offense we had in last year's postseason."

Then Dan Uggla lived up to his name, which wasn't a good thing, breathing life and memories into dead lines of poetry: April is the cruelest month. . . .

Dan Uggla began the season in horrific fashion, so horrific--I'm not even sure it needs detailing. But here's the bare bones of it: Through July 4th (86 games), Dan Uggla was hitting .173, and while his 12 home runs were solid power numbers, he'd amassed only 29 RBIs. For any baseball player, terrible. For a cleanup hitter, embarrassing. And the only good that probably came from Uggla's ugly hitting was that it did a decent job of distracting the baseball world from the equally abysmal season that former phenom Jason Heyward was/is having.



Then the meaning of Uggla changed, and with a 33-game hit streak, he resuscitated a lineup, that without the injured Brian McCann, would have failed to fog up a silver spoon that some backwoods doctor might have held in front of its nose, to check for life. And, as the sun grew hotter in the summer sky and flowers bloomed, all Braves fans could feel was the numbness of hope leaving the body, like blood spilling from a cut. The Phillies had a big division lead, and the Wild Card was a dead limb. But then a 33-game hit streak happened.

I'll bring up Jason Heyward for one more reason: he's family. He grew up in Georgia, was drafted by the Braves, came through the Braves' farm system, and has shaped our hearts and minds with busted out parking lot windows and mystical gum chewing. And, for all that, the kid has earned not our wrath, but our pity and encouragement--c'mon, Jason, you can do it. . . bust out of this. 

In contrast, Dan Uggla was an outsider, pulled onto the boat by net, like a slimy, slippery fish. And, when the marlin didn't taste good, we were ready to toss him back. But then 33 straight games with a hit happened, and the pronunciation of Uggla no longer left a scowl on our faces or a bitter taste in our mouths--Infante who? And, as the batting average climbed and he rounded the bases, the sliminess of his scales was transformed before us, and we saw a glimmering light reflecting off his silver scales that were as bright and shining as a suit of armor, as bright and shining as the day our future brother-in-law said: You guys got Uggla. 


And now I know how to respond.


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Since Uggla's hit streak began, he's hit .350 with 17 homers and 36 RBIs, and according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien "Uggla has exactly the same number of hits in his past 41 games (55) as he had in his first 86 games." The article is also worth a read because he details why the Braves' offensive production and Wild Card lead over the Giants has to do with the entire team and not just #26.

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