When I saw the Uggla name in a Marlins box score for the first time, I was sure it was a typo. (That's "typographical error" for those of us who deal in short-cuts.) I mean, whoever heard of such a name?
Well, if I were Swedish, I would have. The Ugglas are Swedes, and in Swedish an "uggla" translates into "owl," like the feathery night bird.
This Uggla, being Dan, is the Braves' new second baseman.
To the Florida Marlins, Dan Uggla represents the best investment of their franchise, picked up for $50,000 under what is known as "a Rule 5 draft" five years ago, when somebody in the Arizona Diamondbacks office got careless. After five seasons in their farm system, the D-backs felt comfortable in leaving him exposed.
After five seasons as the Marlins' second basemen, they felt comfortable offering him a $48-million contract, which you'd consider rather generous. But that was for four years. He wanted five, he and his agent. The Braves raised them to $60 million, and gave him the five years. And Thursday afternoon, deep in the bowels of Turner Field, it all came together, and they gathered and made it official.
Uggla signed, and Frank Wren, who shifts the Braves' gears, and Fredi Gonzalez, the former coach who returns as manager, all glowed with joy.
I couldn't help but notice that throughout the proceedings, Uggla often patted the contract that lay before him, signed with his full name "Daniel Cooley Uggla," and called for a salary of $62 million for five years of service. That comes to roughly $12.4 million per season, more than any second baseman has ever made in the major leagues, not even Charley Gehringer, nor Rogers Hornsby, nor Ryne Sandberg -- and I could go on, but, of course, that's pure folly. Another age, another economy, another major league.
Uggla leads all current second basemen in home runs since he broke in with the Marlins in 2006. Last season, he led them all with 33 home runs, 105 runs batted in and a .287 batting average. They say he preferred the Braves because of his record at Turner Field, a .354 batting average, 12 home runs and 36 RBIs. Besides, it's not that far from Columbia, Tenn., where he makes his home.
This is always brought up in such a sweetheart deal, though if the highest offer had taken him to Seattle, geography would not have hindered him, I'd guess.
Understand, he is 31 years old. He is also built like a pulling guard, 5-foot-11, about 215 pounds, and a prominent jaw and a chiseled chin. He looks tough, and is. In his five Marlin seasons, he has hit 154 home runs and driven home 465. Now, you will read of snide critics, one who sneeringly writes that "he is a lousy second baseman."
I challenge that. I've watched him all these seasons, and what I see, I like. He's a battler. Besides, he bats from the right side, and the Braves need a right-handed swinger to shore up Chipper Jones -- and let me say right here, there is no doubt Chipper will be the third baseman next season, a project he has dedicated himself to since he left surgery last August.
And there you have it. Your right side has been toughened, you are assured of a solid infield -- Freddie Freeman is a subject to be wrought out later -- and Dan Uggla, "The Owl,", has found his roost.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Citizen.