The Atlanta Braves made a difficult decision this weekend and benched struggling starting second baseman Dan Uggla.
Uggla, who is currently batting .208 with 17 home runs and 64 runs batted in has been struggling to find consistency for the better part of the 2012 season. He started the season relatively well, but fell into a slump soon after, and has hit .152 since the June 13th.
While the Braves have been struggling to maintain their wild-card lead they tried to be as patient as possible with Uggla, mainly because the Braves do not have another primary second baseman on the roster. However, the trade deadline acquisition of Reed Johnson from the Chicago Cubs, as well as the defensive versatility of Martin Prado has opened up the lineup possibilities for Fredi Gonzalez, and the manager decided that enough was enough.
Uggla didn’t take the news of his benching very well, and many Braves fan feared that Uggla, whose biceps seem ready to rip through his uniform at any time, might morph into the Incredible Hulk and punch Fredi Gonzalez to make up for all the hits that he hasn’t been getting at the plate.
That was not the case however, as Uggla’s uniform appeared to be fully intact following the meeting with his manager.
One thing that made the benching so odd however, was its timing. Uggla had been struggling for months, and rather than bench him or send him to the minors to rework his swing or approach earlier, they allowed him to stay in the lineup until now.
Uggla had actually hit in each of his last five games (including two home runs), but his inability to make contact consistently was still hurting the team. This means that rather than having a back-on-track Uggla ready to go for the postseason, the Braves will have to hope that the time off can benefit him.
While Uggla may not have turned green and torn through his uniform yet, the Braves may still want to be careful. With the extra time Uggla will have from his benching, he may hit the weight room even harder. As a result; Uggla’s biceps, which always look as though a single thread is holding them in his uniform, may find a way to tear through eventually.
Uggla may be benched currently, but he is still a dangerous weapon to have off the bench as a pinch-hitter, and there is no doubt that he will be using this benching for motivation.
If I were the Braves; I might consider ordering his jersey one size larger from here on out to ensure that Uggla has an intact uniform the next time he is called to the plate.