Commentary

Uggla delivers a big stinker in National League's loss

Originally Published: July 15, 2008
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Success is a double-edged sword, as they say. The same high stakes that give an athlete a shot at big money and fame carry reciprocal consequences. Mess up big on that stage, and there's no place to hide. It's the ultimate meritocracy.

Which brings us to Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, a guy who won't soon forget his second trip to the All-Star Game -- no matter how hard he tries.

[+] EnlargeDan Uggla
Chris Faytok/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireDan Uggla committed three of the NL's four errors in their 4-3 loss to the AL in the All-Star Game.
The carnage is right there in the box score for the world to see. Three errors at second base. At the plate, three strikeouts and a double play groundout. And that doesn't include the half-dozen times the Fox TV cameramen flashed to Uggla with a forlorn look on his face.

Logic says that Uggla should be crushed, demoralized or permanently scarred by his implosion, but guess again. Shortly before 2 a.m., after the National League had dropped a 4-3 decision to the American League in the 79th All Star Game, Uggla stood before a bank of reporters at his locker stall and said he had thoroughly enjoyed his experience in New York this week.

And despite an ending that could have been scripted by M. Night Shyamalan, Uggla acted like a player whose confidence is still intact. Marlins fans can be heartened that there will be no carryover effect once he returns to his day job in Florida.

"I know what kind of player I am,'' Uggla said. "I'm fine. The only thing I'm pissed about is that we lost.''

Uggla, 28, is renowned for swinging the bat very hard and overcoming the odds. He wasn't particularly highly regarded as a college shortstop out of Memphis, but the Arizona Diamondbacks liked him enough to pick him in the 11th round of the 2001 draft and give him a $40,000 bonus.

Florida plucked him in the Rule 5 draft, and Uggla has blossomed as a Marlin. This year he ranks second to Chase Utley among major league second basemen in home runs (23) and RBIs (59) and leads them all with a .605 slugging percentage.

But for one agonizing five-inning stretch Tuesday night, it's as if he was possessed by the spirit of Mike Andrews.

Uggla struck out against Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth and grounded into an inning-ending double play against Mariano Rivera in the 10th. Little did he know that his evening would spiral downhill from there.

In the bottom of the 10th, Uggla botched a routine ground ball by Michael Young, then got his legs tangled up as a Carlos Quentin grounder scooted between them. In a span of three pitches, he had a GIDP and two errors to his credit.

Fortunately for Uggla, Colorado pitcher Aaron Cook was on his game. Cook threw some hellacious sinkers to work out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam, and Uggla returned to the dugout for the obligatory "hang in theres'' and morale boosters.

"A lot of guys come up and slap you on the leg and pick you up,'' Uggla said. "That's what we do. We pick each other up. I never was down. You shake it off, you move on, and you keep playing.''

I never was down. You shake it off, you move on, and you keep playing.

--Dan Uggla

As the ordeal stretched on, Uggla mixed in one more defensive misplay and a bases-loaded strikeout on three pitches against Kansas City reliever Joakim Soria. If there was any consolation, much of the damage occurred so late at night that the majority of the viewing public had tuned out and gone to bed.

While Uggla's teammates went to great lengths to say supportive things, they really did seem to believe it was no big deal. Say all you want about the All-Star Game being linked to home-field advantage in the World Series; it's a heck of a lot better to have a nightmare game like this in mid-July than October.

"It definitely wasn't his best night,'' said Russell Martin. "But he'll be able to put it behind him. You're going to have some good days and some bad days. I'm sure he'll look past this and he'll probably laugh at it later on. Maybe he's a little bitter right now, but it's all about the experience.''

Said NL center fielder Nate McLouth: "Luckily it doesn't matter. The stats don't matter. None of the errors count at the end of the season. He's a great player. I'm sure it won't affect him at all.''

Uggla swears it won't. The Marlins host the Phillies in a three-game series starting Friday, and they'll need Uggla to keep mashing if they plan to hang around the top of the pack.

Uggla is intent on putting the All-Star Game behind him and chalking it up to a confluence of bad luck and absolutely brutal timing.

"When it rains, it pours,'' he said.

Next time he'll remember to bring an umbrella.

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer