Dan Uggla is “blue collar?”

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Still lovin’ the Dan Uggla trade. My friend Stephen Silver pretty much summed up the whole deal last night when he tweeted “I had no idea they were giving away free Dan Ugglas today. I wish my team had known in advance.”  Yep.

But one thing has struck me in the aftermath of the trade:  people calling Dan Uggla a “blue collar” player.  The Miami Herald’s Marlins blog called him “a blue collar workhorse” this morning. The Herald’s Mark Spencer called him “the blue-collar slugger” in the paper’s main story.  Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez called him “as blue-collar as they come” yesterday. Those quotes have been re-tweeted, blogged and mentioned on message boards all over the place since the trade went down. And if you think Joe Simpson isn’t going to call Uggla “blue collar” ten times in the first month of Braves telecasts next season, well, you’re just not that familiar with his work.

Such a curious description. I assume it refers to work ethic, but I can’t help but think it’s really just another form of “gritty” and “gamer” and the sorts of adjectives which are applied almost exclusively to white ballplayers.  I love me some Dan Uggla and I’m going to root for him like crazy next season, but ask yourself: if a black ballplayer was (a) known for home runs; (b) was pretty crappy on defense; and (c) just turned down a four-year, $48 million contract that just about everyone in baseball thought was more than fair, would he be called “blue collar?” I kinda doubt it.

And while we’re at it, the guy Uggla was traded for played wherever he was asked, hustled and didn’t make much money. So tell me: why isn’t Omar Infante the blue collar guy in this trade?

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.