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Washington Nationals Game 1 Thoughts: The Uggla-ness of it all

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Bryce Harper hit a bomb over the out of town scoreboard. Max Scherzer was brilliant... until his defense let him down in the sixth inning.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Max Scherzer was on cruise control until there were two outs in the sixth inning.  After walking Curtis Granderson to lead off the game, he retired seventeen straight batters.  He then walked Granderson again on four pitches with two outs in the sixth, but worked his way out of it with an easy popup to Dan Uggla.  David Wright followed with a routine popup a few steps behind the infield that Dan Uggla was underneath... until Ian Desmond called him off.  Desmond proceeded to drop it, and the game turned on that play.  Lucas Duda followed with a two run single to give Bartolo Colon and the Mets bullpen all the support they would need.

The Mets broadcast, which is what you'll hear in the link above, seems to indicate that there may have been a lack of communication when watching the replay.  They're also adamant that Desmond had no business calling Uggla off.... and they're spot on.  This miscue was totally on Desmond.  The ball was hit well to the second base side of the infield and Uggla had waved everyone off, signifying that he had it.

If you read Patrick's user guide yesterday, you'll know that I'm not here to do recaps.  Those will be handled by Patrick and Doghouse.  I'm here to do thought pieces, look at the big picture, and editorialize.  Monday's Opening Day error that led to the Mets first two runs is worth looking at in my book.  In reality, it's just one play in one game out of 162.  Why is it worth 1,000 words or so?  The Nats have played 27 Spring Training games and just one real game.  In those 28 games, this is not the first time this has happened.

I was hoping to track down the play, but I haven't been able to do so.  I didn't watch very many Spring Training games because... well... after about a week, you just start wishing the games would start counting.  I was watching this game, so the play kind of stuck in my head.  Ian Desmond wasn't playing in that game.  Danny Espinosa was the shortstop.  Apart from that, things played out nearly identically to how they did on Monday....

Someone (I feel like they were playing against the Cardinals?) hit a lazy pop fly behind second base.  Uggla got under the ball and waved his hands to call everyone off.  Espinosa ran over from shortstop and called Uggla off late.  The ball dropped between them for what ended up being a double*.

*I'm pretty sure it was ruled a double.  I distinctly remember what happened, so I went through some Spring box scores to see if I could find an error when Espinosa was playing SS... the only one I found that I viewed was a dribbler that he couldn't corral.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would have just forgotten about the play happening in Spring Training.  These aren't ordinary circumstances, though.  The second baseman is Dan Uggla! You know... The guy who once made three errors (including two on consecutive plays) in the All Star Game; The guy who I joked brings a brick rather than a glove onto the field with him several times this preseason; The guy with -65 DRS over the course of his career, -21 of which have come in the past two seasons when he's combined to play just 1494 innings in the field.

We all know of Uggla's defensive issues, so you can bet that his teammates, manager, and the rest of the organization are aware of them as well.  One problem that this may end up posing (and already has... twice!) is that his teammates around him may try to do too much to compensate for Uggla's defensive limitations*.  I don't care if we're talking about a 45-year-old who has been a DH for the past five years.  If a guy capable of playing major league baseball has a routine popup hit his way, is under it, and waves you off, you have to trust that he's going to be able to catch the ball.

*I knew I could find a nice way to say it!

Seeing as how this has happened twice in the past two weeks, Uggla's shortstop(s) don't seem to trust that he can even catch a routine popup that's clearly his ball.  While Uggla's tenure as the starting second baseman figures to be (crossing fingers) relatively brief, this may make for an interesting month or so while the Nats wait on Anthony Rendon to return.  If his teammates don't trust that he can make even the most routine play, it may (already) be time to hand those temporary reins over to Danny Espinosa.

Am I overreacting to one bad play in one game out of 162?  Of course!  It's a long season, and despite the fact that dcRoach joked about going 162-0, the Nats are going to lose quite a few games in 2015.  I'm just worried that after having seen this happen twice in the past couple of weeks, there's the possibility of it becoming a trend.

Editor's Note: The Nats did muster just one lonely run against Big Bart and a bullpen that they've feasted on in recent years (let's hope that doesn't turn into a trend, or you may get to hear me ramble on about that!  I hear they're missing three starters right now, so it might).  That makes it awfully difficult to pin the Opening Day loss on anything but a lack of offensive production.