The Atlanta Braves finally made a move on Friday that most baseball fans saw coming for months now, releasing struggling second baseman Dan Uggla. Uggla was in the midst of a season that saw the thirty-four-year-old hit just two home runs (both coming in the same game) and post a .162 batting average in 48 games this season.
The decision seemed to be in the works in the Atlanta front office for quite some time, with the boiling point apparently coming last Saturday when the team suspended Uggla for one game reportedly due to tardiness.
One of the major issues that caused the move to take so long had to be Uggla’s contract, which called for the team to pay more than $19 million in his release. Such a move is historic for Atlanta, as it tops the $10 million that the team paid pitcher Derek Lowe once he was traded to the Cleveland Indians following the end of the 2011 campaign.
It looked like 2014 would be the season that Uggla returned to his pre-Atlanta days, and all seemed hopeful after the Louisville, Kentucky native hit .269 with 4 home runs in 52 at-bats during spring training. Uggla proceeded to hit in the mid-.200s for the better part of the first month of the season, which included a glorious 2-home run performance to help the Braves defeat the Philadelphia Phillies on Apr. 14.
What looked to be the turning point for Uggla actually turned out to be nothing more than his last hoorah. From that point on his performance took a steady nosedive, leading manager Fredi Gonzalez to bench him at the start of May. In to replace Uggla was rookie Tommy La Stella, whose reliable glove and dangerous bat quickly helped the Braves forget about the struggling veteran and continue on in the race for the NL East division championship.
Uggla’s four-year run with the Braves culminated with 356 hits, 79 home runs, 225 RBIs, and 535 strikeouts, a far cry from his tenure with the Florida Marlins that led Braves general manager Frank Wren to give him a 5-year, $62 million contract in Jan. 2011. Uggla will probably be best remembered by Braves fans for his 33-game hitting streak back in 2011, an inconceivable stretch that gave Uggla the twenty-third longest hitting streak in baseball history.
Atlanta’s unconditional release probably will not mark the end of Dan Uggla’s baseball career, as it seems certain that a team will kick the tires on the former All-Star and see if they can mend the broken pieces that Gonzalez and hitting coach Greg Walker never could. Despite this fact, it seems certain that Uggla’s persistent push to make second base a position of power at the plate is a thing of the past, just as his tenure with the Atlanta Braves is as of today.