There’s been a lot of hostility directed Tony La Russa’s way for all of the NL All-Star snubs this week. Really, though, it’s the fans as a whole that made things more difficult than they needed to be by voting Dan Uggla, Rafael Furcal and Pablo Sandoval into the starting lineup.
The Braves tonight dropped the slumping Uggla down to the seventh spot in their lineup. He hit .160 in June and is off to a 1-for-16 start in July. Overall, he’s at .225/.355/.394 for the season.
In defense of the fans, Uggla probably was the NL’s most productive second baseman through the first two months of the season, and many ballots were cast in May. However, even though Uggla was outhitting Brandon Phillips and Aaron Hill, he was still a worse player overall after factoring in defense and baserunning.
The move to drop Uggla to the seventh spot comes nearly a year to the day after he broke out of his career-worst slump. Uggla was hitting .173 on July 4 last season. On July 5, he went 2-for-2 with a homer in kicking off a 33-game hitting streak.
Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.
Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.
To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.