On July 5th 2011 something clicked for Dan Uggla. The Colorado Rockies were in town and Jhoulys Chacin was on the mound. A struggling Dan Uggla would go onto get 2 hits and draw 2 walks. The box score would read 2-2 with a batting average of .178. A small victory for the struggling Uggla. Both his hits that day went for extra bases, including a long home run.
To most players that would seem like an average day. So you went 2-2 with a home run, your team won the game. What’s the big deal? Well for Dan Uggla this would be the day that would eventually turn his entire season around. Prior to this Dan Uggla was not producing and the fans didn’t hesitate to show their frustration. The Braves traded for Uggla in the off season hoping that he would be the right handed power bat that they so desperately needed. The Braves front office couldn’t have been happier when Uggla decided to sign a 5 year extension worth 62 million dollars. Now to a team like the Yankees this type of contract is run of the mill, nothing that would even draw the least bit of attention. However when you travel down to Atlanta, a contract like that is enormous. Small and mid market size clubs just can’t spend money like the Yankees and Red Sox. They need to be much more cautious with how they spend their money. So naturally Braves fans were not pleased with Dan Uggla’s production the first few months of the season.
Now I could sit here and throw a whole bunch of stats at you. I could point out how much his average has improved. Or how many home runs he’s hit over the course of the streak. But I’m sure that all of you are MORE then aware of all of this. You guys know the numbers as they’ve been being shoved in your face for the past few weeks.
This streak is as much about people as it is about numbers. Let’s take away the numbers for a little bit. The only number that we’ll focus on for the rest of this article is 33. Number of games he has hit in will be the only number I will reference. Let’s focus on this story from the perspective of a guy who was boarder line hated in the city of Atlanta. Braves fans couldn’t wait to bash Dan Uggla after he would strikeout with runners in scoring position. They never hesitated to rip him apart when he would ground into a double play after the lead off man reached base. From what I observed Dan Uggla got very little support from the home town fans who were more interested in bashing him then supporting him through these tough times.
Are fans just too tough on players? Is it the fact that they make millions of dollars that makes them so easy to hate? Or causes fans to expect superhuman efforts from them on a nightly basis. Underneath the high salaries and glamorous life styles these guys are human beings. They are prone to make mistakes and struggle just like you or me. Not every article I write will be amazing. I could go through a “writers slump”. Would people bash my blog and say that we aren’t worthy of any attention? If we were then to come out with a series of outstanding articles and came up with the next big story would we be right back in everyone’s line of vision. Would the tables turn that quickly?
For Dan Uggla it seems as if the tables did turn that quickly. Once the hitting streak started his popularity naturally started to rise. He might now be the most popular player on this years Braves team. He’s driving in big runs and he’s basically put the offense on his back since Brian McCann went down with an injury on July 26th.
It’s always easy to root for a player who’s doing well. Who’s hitting home runs and driving in tons of runs. It’s a much more difficult thing to cheer on and support a player who keeps striking out. A player who isn’t producing but you know deep down wants to so badly. It’s one thing when a player isn’t producing because of lack of effort. However it’s another thing when a player is in a slump that he just can’t get out of no matter how hard he tries. The kind of player that lays awake half the night worrying about his next at bat because he wants nothing more to prove everyone that he can produce. Dan Uggla is that player. He wants to win and he wants to be a Brave. Does anyone really think that another team wouldn’t have offered Dan Uggla a big contract if he hadn’t signed the extension with Atlanta? He’s easily a top 5 second baseman in the league, if not a top 3.
I think that as fans we should be a little more supportive of our players when they are struggling and that does NOT include lack of effort like I mentioned before. If you go out there and you aren’t playing the game the right way then you don’t deserve anyone’s support. But should it really take a 33 game hitting streak for us to support one of our own players. I can’t tell you how many times I read on Twitter that Dan Uggla was a joke and a waste of money. That he couldn’t handle the pressure of playing on a winning team. Now all I read is how great Dan Uggla is and how were so lucky to have him. So much coverage concerning the streak that Dan Uggla is in everyone’s home. He’s on ESPN every single night. There’s articles about him all over the internet. His streak is mentioned on MLB Network every single night. He’s a household name.
For those reporters and fans that still refuse to acknowledge the streak because it’s ONLY at 33 games you are living in some sort of alternate universe or maybe you don’t read up on your baseball stats enough. That 33 game hitting streak is much more impressive then some people realize. If Dan Uggla was to hit in just 3 more games he would move his streak into the top 10 all time. The longest hitting streak that George Brett or Stan Musial ever had was 30 games. Uggla has already surpassed that mark. He is just 7 games away from 40 which would match Ty Cobb’s career high.
When we talk about hitting streaks were talking about something that dates back to the late 1800’s. This isn’t a reference that’s only 30 or 40 years old. These streaks have been kept track of since 1885 according to many baseball historians. Were talking about well over 100 years of documented baseball legacy. Dan Uggla is making a name for himself in baseball history. This shouldn’t be ignored.
By: Bob McVinua