Schlossberg on Baseball: Uggla gets Sweet Revenge • Latino Sports

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Schlossberg on Baseball: Uggla gets Sweet Revenge

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Dan Uggla’s career has had more ups and downs than the Coney Island Cyclone.

A three-time All-Star, he’s the only second baseman in baseball history to produce five straight 30-homer seasons. He also owns the longest hitting streak, 33 games, in the history of the Atlanta Braves.

Dan Uggla has already helped the Nationals

Dan Uggla has already helped the Nationals

But the 6-foot, 210-pound righthanded hitter has never hit for a high average. In fact, his four-year run in Georgia produced consecutive marks of .233, .220, .179, and .162. That’s not what the Braves bargained for when they gave him a five-year contract worth $15 million per season after acquiring him from the Marlins before the 2011 campaign.

When his power also seemed to go south last year, Atlanta cut Uggla loose. He wasn’t much better in San Francisco, where he went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts in four games, and drew his release.

Realizing he could be through at 35, Uggla spent the winter telling teams that he was the victim of undiagnosed concussions during his last two seasons with the Braves.

Washington, a city where tall tales often acquire new life, decided to take a chance. The Nationals brought the veteran to spring training, telling him he wasn’t likely to start even if he made the team but not expecting much more than a friendly clubhouse presence.

Dan Uggla gets high fives for his home run

Dan Uggla gets high fives for his home run

Given a chance in spring exhibition games,  however, Uggla hit. Fanning less and enjoying it more, he also hit for power — convincing Nationals manager Matt Williams, once a power-hitting infielder himself, to find room on his roster.

When Anthony Rendon was sidelined early, Williams moved Yunel Escobar from second to third and gave Uggla his chance.

He made his first home run count; it came in the ninth inning with two men on base, giving the Nats a 13-12 win over the Braves in Atlanta. That blow, against flame-throwing Atlanta closer Jason Grilli, gave Uggla five runs batted in for the night — all in the last three innings of the slugfest. The win ended Washington’s six-game losing streak and provided a potent shot in the arm for the Nats, who had to overcome a pair of eight-run deficits and beat a tough closer who had converted all seven save chances.

Uggla — not known for his speed — even had a pair of triples in the first two games of the Braves series.

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Even Chipper Jones couldn’t match Dan Uggla’s 33-game hitting streak. [Bill Menzel photo]

A notorious streak hitter, he hit .377 (49-for-130) during his 33-game hitting streak. It still staggers the mind that Uggla did what Hank Aaron, Rico Carty, Ralph Garr, and Chipper Jones could not.

The Louisville native had career peaks with 36 home runs in 2011, 105 RBI in 2010, and a .287 batting average in 2010.

If healthy, he will add another power bat to a Nationals lineup that could use one — especially considering the injury to Rendon and the slow recoveries of Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman from other ailments.

The best part of the story, at least for the Nats, is that Atlanta is paying Uggla $12.5 million this season not to play for them. In the meantime, the Braves lack both a solid second baseman and the cleanup man that Uggla certainly could be.

Sure, he strikes out too much. But his ability to pop a long one at any time, plus his winsome ways in the clubhouse, make him a valuable man. And even an occasional hero.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer is the first American League pitcher to go four starts in a season without giving up an earned run since Zach Greinke (Royals) in 2009 . . .

The Cards lost ace Adam Wainwright for the year

The Cards lost ace Adam Wainwright for the year

The St. Louis Cardinals have set their sights on Philadelphia southpaw Cole Hamels as an ideal replacement for ace Adam Wainwright, out for the year after rupturing his Achilles tendon while batting . . .

Mitch Harris (Cards) worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings in his big-league bow after spending five years on active duty with the U.S. Navy . . .

Sorry, Gladys Gooding, but the Chicago Cubs unveiled the first ballpark organist in 1941, a year before your dulcet tones pervaded Ebbets Field . . .

The Los Angeles Dodgers will miss Brandon McCarthy, who submitted to Tommy John surgery after inking a four-year, $48 million deal during the winter . . .

As expected, the Miami Marlins are no longer enamored with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has two years left on a $21 million, three-year pact . . .

The Anaheim Angels were so anxious to dump the Josh Hamilton headache on the Texas Rangers, his original team, that they agreed to pay most of the $86 million the troubled slugger is still owed under the five-year, $125 million deal Arte Moreno gave him . . .

The struggles of AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (Indians) are an early-season mystery . . .

Although riots forced the Baltimore Orioles to cancel two games and play another without spectators, MLB has previously cancelled games because of unrest in Detroit (1967) and Los Angeles (1992) . . .

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, off to an uncharacteristically strong start, credits a new off-season

Mark Teixeira is off to a strong start

Mark Teixeira is off to a strong start

diet that eliminated gluten, sugar, and dairy products . . .

Reds starter Homer Bailey — the best-named pitcher in baseball — is on the DL with a sprained ligament in his right elbow, the same one that needed surgery last fall . . .

Overpaid but underperforming Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford has a muscle tear that forced him to the disabled list for the seventh time in 14 seasons . . .

The Yankees, leading the AL East early, will be hard-pressed to hold that position without Masahiro Tanaka, idled for a month with tendinitis in his right wrist . . .

The line drive that struck Arizona pitcher Archie Bradley in the face, fracturing his sinus, was a lesson right out of the old Herb Score playbook . . .

ESPN did a disservice to viewers of the Braves-Nationals game Monday when it interrupted its own broadcast every time Alex Rodriguez (one home run short of tying Willie Mays for third on the career list at 660) came to bat for the Yankees.

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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