July 09, 2011

Braves Acquire Dan Uggla

The Braves have acquired one of the best right-handed sluggers in the game this week in 2B Dan Uggla. Now, I know there were rumors that Uggla had been with the team since the start of Spring Training, but I’m told that was an impostor—the REAL Dan Uggla has finally arrived and it is great to see him in a Braves uniform.

Uggla, or the guy ‘supposed’ to be Uggla, had been hitting in the .170s all season and looked like he was going to be this year’s Nate McLouth. But in a surprising turn of events, it looks like Mr. Uggla himself is now playing 2B for the Braves. There have been some flashes of power before this year, but nothing like the mammoth shot hit Tuesday night against Colorado. It was followed up by another moon-shot Wednesday.

Uggla has been taking a lot of walks lately, showing that he is seeing the ball much better than the “impostor.” Nothing showed me that this guy is the real deal more than Tuesday night’s double to right center field. He wasn’t pulling off the ball trying to jack one to Tennessee; he was just trying to put a good swing on the ball and take what the pitcher had given…beautiful!

Speaking of Nate McLouth, this is NOT the same player from last year. He, like the new Uggla, is seeing the ball great, taking walks, making solid contact, and maybe best of all, playing terrific defense. McLouth has been aggressive both in the field and at the plate, and as I said before it all has to do with the hair. As soon as I heard that he had grown his hair back out and had the Lance Bass-esque blonde highlights, I knew he was back. Of course, back means he hits .250; but it’s a heck of a lot better than .150.

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The Braves are going to finish the first half of the year by making a trip to Philadelphia to face off against the best team on the planet (record-wise of course). They will be going against “The Big Three” (it was four, but Oswalt is on the DL, again), but I’m sure the Braves have a lot to say about starting pitching…

The Braves have actually had better pitching than the Phillies this year and at this point, I think they can stand up with any rotation out there. It has become so much fun (especially lately) to watch the Braves on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter who is pitching on a given day or who they are playing against, it just feels like they are going to win; no matter what.

What is scary is that Beachy and Hanson have spent time on the DL, Hudson hasn’t been the ‘real’ Tim Hudson for a long stretch yet, and Lowe has been up and down. IF these guys get it together, forget about it!

They should have had two starting pitchers named to the All-Star team (Hanson HAS to be named as a replacement!) to go along with two relievers (Kimbrel also has a good shot to be a replacement, joining Venters).  Can I just say this…WHY IS RYAN VOGELSONG AL ALL STAR?! I know a lot of people are bringing up the Omar Infante selection of a year ago, but there is a huge difference—Charlie Manuel named him, NOT Bobby Cox.

Bruce Bochy has made a FARCE of this year’s game naming both Vogelsong (and his whopping 12 starts) and Tim Lincecum (who is 6-7 on the year) to this year’s team. Look I get it, you want your own guys there, but if you are playing to win the game, you need to bring the best players. Leaving Tommy Hanson, who is 10-4 2.52 ERA off the squad is ridiculous and Bochy should be ashamed of himself!

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Obscure Brave of the Week: Travis Smith

Travis Smith was drafted in the 19th round of the 1995 Amateur Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. He played college baseball for the Red Raiders of Texas Tech. He played in parts of five seasons for the Brewers, Cardinals, Braves (twice), and Marlins. He played with the SK Wyverns baseball club in the South Korean League for a year before returning to the U.S. where he pitched for the Las Vegas 51’s, a AAA-affiliate of the LA Dodgers before retiring in 2007.

Smith was a whopping 5’10” 170lbs and as you can imagine didn’t throw very hard, but we was effective for a few starts with the Braves. He didn’t go very deep into games but as least got them a couple wins in 2004. You could say he was a smaller version of Buddy Carlyle, which is pretty small.

My friend Zach and I were driving around the mid-west going to different baseball stadiums back in 2004 and after a game in Chicago (White Sox) we decided (well I decided) that we needed to drive overnight to get to the 1:00pm game in Philadelphia because they were playing the Braves, and Greg Maddux was scheduled to pitch!

It was a tough ride, but we got there at about 6am, killed some type by grilling bacon and eggs at a rest stop and was allowed in the parking lot at around 9am – they actually didn’t charge us to park because they felt bad for us…we were trying to pay in nickels and dimes since we were out of cash (except for ticket money of course).

My excitement turned to disbelief, which turned to anger when I saw this scrawny dude wearing #43, throwing in the outfield with the name “Smith” on the back of his jersey. I had never heard of Travis Smith before and no one in Philadelphia had either—of course they haven’t heard of toothpaste either.

You may remember this game for the fact that as Smith was warming up in the visitor’s bullpen and one fine, upstanding Philadelphia citizen remarked to Leo Mazzone, “Hey Leo, who’s the paperboy?”

Follow me on Twitter @BRAVEinNY…

Only three more weeks until my drive down south—I can’t wait!

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