10/5/2013 2:52 P.M. ET
Uggla roster decision was a tough one for Braves
Second baseman hit just .179 during season, but is popular with his teammates
By Terence Moore / MLB.com
OK, take a deep breath -- especially if you're part of the Tomahawk Nation -- and now exhale slowly.
We're about to discuss the extremes pertaining to the decision earlier this week by the Braves not to include Dan Uggla on their National League Division Series roster. His bat has been on life support all season, and his bosses thought it best to pull the plug, even though he otherwise has provided life throughout the Braves' clubhouse as one of the most popular guys on the team.
There is no middle ground here. The question regarding whether general manager Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez and others associated with the Braves were right or wrong with the Uggla situation ranks somewhere between how many angels can dance on the edge of a pin and where is Jimmy Hoffa really buried?
That said, the Braves needed to keep Uggla on the roster, but that's just me talking. I lean heavily toward the incumbent in these situations, because you never know when they might have a sudden burst of goodness from their past. Replacements, well … there is a reason why they aren't starters. Take, for instance, Elliot Johnson, who was a solid pickup for the Braves during the late season as a fill-in infielder. Now, he is operating at second base in place of Uggla during this best-of-five series between the Braves and the Dodgers, which is tied at one game apiece.
Johnson is trying his best. Still, heading into Sunday night's Game 3 in Los Angeles after two in Atlanta, he has four strikeouts, no hits and no walks in his seven plate appearances. Not only that, he couldn't handle a tricky grounder that was ruled a hit in Game 1, but many of his peers usually make that play. He also dropped the ball on a relay throw in Game 2 on what likely would have been a close play at home.
I know. None of the above was a huge factor during any of those games, and who's to say Uggla wouldn't have done all of those things or worse given his season-long struggles. Which brings us back to why the Braves' decision makers had one of the toughest personnel decisions in history to make before the start of a playoff series.
For Gonzalez, it was particularly excruciating.
"[Tuesday] might have been one of the hardest days I've had to experience as a Major League manager," Gonzalez told reporters, referring to his seven-year relationship with Uggla.
They've been together for three seasons with the Braves after they spent four years with the Marlins, when Gonzalez was the manager and Uggla was one of the team's stars.
Added Gonzalez, "You try to put the best roster you think will fit in a five-game series and put your best 25 out there. Without getting into details on this and that, we feel like we put our best 25 out there to compete against the Dodgers."
At the time the Braves announced their roster decision, Uggla disagreed, of course, and nothing changed before their 6-1 loss in the NLDS opener, when he discussed his feelings without much of a filter.
"Mainly disappointed, upset, [ticked off] -- every negative emotion you can probably have," Uggla said while standing in the middle of a media horde near the diamond at Turner Field.
Then Uggla got specific, referring to his .179 batting average for the season.
"I'm not blind to my numbers," Uggla said. "I know what they are. But at the same time, I know what I've done in my career, and I still know what I'm capable of doing. So I was kind of blindsided by [getting left off the Braves' NLDS roster]."
Uggla made a splendid case with those comments, but for which side of this argument? I don't know.
Let's say you supported the Braves going without Uggla. It made sense, because when you're trying to stop your streak of losing in the first round of the postseason at six, there is only so far you can go with somebody who was the worst hitter in the Major Leagues during the regular season. I'm not exaggerating. That really was Uggla's distinction. His 171 strikeouts were the third-most in baseball, and only teammate B.J. Upton's average (.108) sat below that of Uggla's (.137) in baseball when it came to hitting with runners in scoring position.
So you opposed the Uggla decision? That also made sense. I mean, the guy is a three-time All-Star, and just three years ago with the Marlins, he hit .287 with 33 home runs and 105 RBIs. Plus, despite his mostly sickly bat throughout the regular season, he was among the primary reasons why the Braves led the NL in home runs. He slammed 22 of them, and he also led the Braves in walks with 77. He can field, too.
Told you this was tough, and consider this: If the Braves advance, they can add Uggla to the NLCS roster … or not.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.