He has since become a total loss. He has lost the power that he displayed even in lesser years. Since July 25, 2013, he has hit three home runs, the latter two in the same game. This season he has more errors (seven) than extra-base hits (five). He has stopped drawing walks and getting on base. The Braves have spent three years and now 36 games wondering how to get Uggla going — they’ve tried everything from swing changes to contact lenses to Lasik surgery — and they haven’t found the answer. There is no answer.
Mark Bowman, who covers the Braves for MLB.com, has written that “some of Atlanta’s players have privately suggested that they believe Pastornicky would be a productive replacement for Uggla.” As much as the other Braves want Uggla to succeed — he’s considered a good teammate — they’re also professionals as, as such, pragmatists. The more he plays, the less their chances of winning. Time to try somebody else.
Except for the final three months of the 2010 season, Fredi Gonzalez has managed Uggla since spring training in 2007. Gonzalez has taken the keep-running-him-out-there tack until he can take it no more — Uggla’s omission from the playoff roster was the sign of a patient manager yielding to cold reality — and now he’s back to benching the guy. But a baseball man of my acquaintance says that a baseball man of his acquaintance once told him: “You can bench a big-name player once. If you have to bench him again, you shouldn’t have him on your roster.”
A manager cannot placate one player at the expense of the other 24. An organization cannot allow a bad contract to compromise a season. The Braves have given Uggla every chance to show he can still play at a major-league level; all he has shown is that he cannot. He remains a Brave only because the organization is balking at handing out money for nothing, but isn’t that what they’re already doing?
Bowman wrote last week that the Braves had considered releasing Uggla but had “moved away from the thought.” Barring an unlikely Uggla uprising, the topic will be broached again. (Since you asked, Uggla has the right to refuse a demotion to the minors.) How much longer can this be allowed to go on? How much is a clean slate worth?
The Braves have tried. Uggla has tried. Nothing has worked. It’s time for the team to cut its losses and let him walk. The Braves are obliged to pay him that $22.1 million no matter what. They’d be better off paying him not to play than to keep trying and failing.