Dan Uggla is not going to break Joe DiMaggio’s record for most consecutive games with a hit. Don’t get me wrong. I’m pulling for him to break the record. Uggla making a run at Joltin’ Joe would be a legendary story, can only mean good things for the Braves, and would cause Yankee fans everywhere to blow a gasket. It’s win-win-win.
The odds are just stacked pretty steep against him. DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games. Uggla is at
30 31 (he has two hits tonight since I’ve started writing). We really shouldn’t even start having this conversation until he breaks 40 and that hasn’t happened in thirty-three years when Pete Rose climbed to 44 before having an oh-fer game.
So why am I writing about a streak that will almost undoubtedly be a minor footnote in history? Because a person writing about Uggla says he has no business going after the record. From one of the blogs at Grantland:
Dan Uggla’s improbable hit streak now stands at 30 games after the Braves beat the Marlins 4-3 in extra innings. For the second straight game, Uggla’s only hit was an infield single. Tuesday also marked the first time Joe DiMaggio rolled over in his grave, an act he intends to repeat until Uggla is working the checkout at a crappy* Wal-Mart where he belongs. DID YOU HEAR THAT DAN UGGLA? WHERE YOU BELONG.
*In reality, he used a stronger word.
Now obviously the dude is gunning for humor here and really doesn’t feel as strongly as the all caps-ending rant indicates (I think), but it gets to the root of very real feelings amongst sports fans. We love underdogs, but only to a point.
Before Uggla started this tear, he was batting .173. If he started making a serious run at the guy that Simon and Garfunkel name-dropped*, then people are going to seriously freak out. Baseball is a sport that reveres tradition more than any other. You think people were upset when Bonds unseated Hank Aaron? At least with Bonds everyone gets to console themselves with the steroid thing (I know I do). A guy that was way south of the Mendoza Line taking down the last great baseball record would make the calmest purist’s head explode.
*Sidenote: If Uggla ties or breaks DiMaggio’s record, I demand that he is name dropped in a popular song. I tried to figure out who is presently the most famous duo in music and realized that it’s probably Kanye West and Jay-Z (who should really be called Ye & the Z). So maybe not them since I prefer a Braves player to be name-dropped in a song that I would allow young Jim’s ears to hear.
At the end of the day, the underdog story is fun as long as they know their place. Most people would have fun seeing a guy make a run at the record, but they probably don’t want the name Dan Uggla to usurp Joe DiMaggio in the history books.
It happens in all sports. Remember last season when you asked SEC fans what they thought about the possibility of Boise State in the BCS Championship and their eyes would start twitching? The Broncos were fun when they were using backyard football shenanigans to take out Oklahoma. But when they threatened an SEC team’s place at the championship table? Suddenly that underdog was not so welcome.
I have to point the finger back at myself. Florida is last place in the NL East and thus are underdogs to the Braves. Am I pulling for the underdog? Heck no. I want the Braves to sweep the fish. The fact of the matter is the underdog is great as long as it doesn’t get in the way of what we want or, in Uggla’s case, overstays its welcome.
I hate to slap a moral on the end, but this thought occurred to me as I was writing. I think we do the same thing with the actual underdogs in our lives. We like the idea of helping the poor, the outcast, the other. Yet if rooting for those underdogs inconveniences us or if the underdog overstays his or her welcome (truly helping takes concentrated effort over a long period of time), we’re not that excited.
It’s okay if you would rather DiMaggio keep the consecutive games with a hit record (though, come on, how often do we get to see history like this?). You shouldn’t hate on Uggla because he’s a person of value just like you. But pulling for Joltin’ Joe to maintain is fine. It’s sports. It’s fun but not life or death stuff.
But the underdogs we encounter in life? The people that need us to pull for them, help them, reach out to them, feed them, talk to them, be there for them? We should make sure that our rooting is not just empty talk that disappears when the going gets tough. And I’m pointing the finger back at myself again.