I understand this probably isn’t going to elicit much sympathy, given that Dan Uggla still has about another $18 million coming his way (and unless he has been using stacks of hundreds for kindling in the winter, he doesn’t need another $18 million).
But seriously: What happened to him?
It’s rare that the bottom falls out of a player’s career as dramatically as we’ve seen with the former Braves’ second baseman. Having been signed by San Francisco two weeks ago following his release in Atlanta, Uggla is out of a job again. The Giants designated him for assignment and there are multiple reports that he declined to be sent to Triple-A.
In other words, he's back on the street. OK, a really nice street.
Uggla played in four games with the Giants. He went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts, a walk and a run scored. He also committed three errors. It was an absolute meltdown. He had been given a second chance by a team in a pennant race and was one of the best organizations in baseball. The Giants, of course, took little financial risk with the signing so they won't have to live with a financial hangover, unlike the Braves.
Again: What happened to this guy?
Putting aside for a moment whether the Braves way overspent for Uggla – hindsight: duh – he was a career .263 hitter in Florida and in his last season with the Marlins hit .287 with 33 homers and 105 RBIs.
Uggla retained his power at the outset with the Braves, hitting 36 homers with 82 RBIs in his first season. But his home run output declined to 19 and 22 in the next two years and he had only two in 130 at-bats this year with Atlanta.
His drop-off in batting average also was pronounced. He went from .287 in 2010 with the Marlins to .233, .220, .179 and .162 over the next four seasons (before being released). I actually thought San Francisco was a prime landing spot for Uggla but obviously he’s more messed up than I imagined.
When I spoke to Uggla at length in spring training – you can find the column linked here – he admitted he was a psychological mess last season:
“I was in a bad place last year. A real bad place. Somehow I hit 22 homers. Don’t ask me how.
“It was awful. And the second half of 2012 was awful. I got into so many bad habits. It’s not just that my swing was messed up. My legs were messed up. My head. I was a mess. Something would work in the (batting) cage but not the game. I was like, ‘Why isn’t this working?’”
He was confident of a turnaround this season. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
Sometimes athletes perform better in relative anonymity with bad organizations. Sometimes there’s pressure living up to a big contract. Everybody is going to have their own theory what happened. But it’s stunning how bad Uggla became in a short period of time.
Regardless of whether Uggla plays again, the Braves must live with him on their payroll for another season.