Dan Uggla’s agent said last month that the 29-year-old had no intention of moving off second base for the Marlins or any other team, but it doesn’t appear that the player himself is quite so inflexible.
Or as Uggla told MLB.com yesterday:
“It’s a tough subject. I feel like I’m a second baseman. I feel like I’ve done a good job there the last few years. I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Which is just about what one would expect a proud ballplayer to say. Uggla’s not a little guy, and he’s certainly not a prototypical second baseman. It’s impressive that he’s functioned as well as he at the position these last few years. However, the simple truth is that none of the teams that have weighed bidding on him want him as a second basemen. He’s going to have to move sooner or later, and it might as well be now.
Uggla to the Giants has been the popular rumor of the day, though San Francisco GM Brian Sabean isn’t going to surrender top prospect Madison Bumgarner for him.
There should be room for a compromise. If not, perhaps the Braves or Red Sox will get involved. Uggla has the bat to be useful in left field, and he should be solid enough defensively once he gains some experience there.
In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.
Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”
Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.
I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.