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Dan Uggla is “blue collar?”

Nov 17, 2010, 8:24 AM EDT

Dan Uggla running

Still lovin’ the Dan Uggla trade. My friend Stephen Silver pretty much summed up the whole deal last night when he tweeted “I had no idea they were giving away free Dan Ugglas today. I wish my team had known in advance.”  Yep.

But one thing has struck me in the aftermath of the trade:  people calling Dan Uggla a “blue collar” player.  The Miami Herald’s Marlins blog called him “a blue collar workhorse” this morning. The Herald’s Mark Spencer called him “the blue-collar slugger” in the paper’s main story.  Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez called him “as blue-collar as they come” yesterday. Those quotes have been re-tweeted, blogged and mentioned on message boards all over the place since the trade went down. And if you think Joe Simpson isn’t going to call Uggla “blue collar” ten times in the first month of Braves telecasts next season, well, you’re just not that familiar with his work.

Such a curious description. I assume it refers to work ethic, but I can’t help but think it’s really just another form of “gritty” and “gamer” and the sorts of adjectives which are applied almost exclusively to white ballplayers.  I love me some Dan Uggla and I’m going to root for him like crazy next season, but ask yourself: if a black ballplayer was (a) known for home runs; (b) was pretty crappy on defense; and (c) just turned down a four-year, $48 million contract that just about everyone in baseball thought was more than fair, would he be called “blue collar?” I kinda doubt it.

And while we’re at it, the guy Uggla was traded for played wherever he was asked, hustled and didn’t make much money. So tell me: why isn’t Omar Infante the blue collar guy in this trade?

  1. Ari Collins - Nov 17, 2010 at 8:32 AM

    He doesn’t have the natural strength of those dark-skinned brutes. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps you betcha and has that home run power thanks to hard work and the willpower of our fairer race.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 17, 2010 at 8:33 AM

      I lol’d.

  2. Panda Claus - Nov 17, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    Something else I hadn’t considered when this story broke yesterday. If the Marlins were going to have “free Dan Uggla” event, wouldn’t you think they’d give him to some other team so they don’t have to be reminded of their frugalness 18 games per season?

    Interesting take on the whole “blue collar” image and how that’s portrayed by fans and media. You probably have a good point.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:30 AM

      Something doesn’t seem right here. If you are basically giving him away, why not call the Red Sox to see if they have anything to offer. Uggla would be cheaper than Beltre, you could keep Youk at first with Scutaro and Pedroia managing the other two spots. He’d be a type A next year so you could offer him arbitration or watch him leave and take the draft pick.

      Or maybe Loria is trying to do enough to see if Old Gator will kill him…

      • Old Gator - Nov 17, 2010 at 11:13 AM

        I’m mixing the hemlock even as we speak, although I haven’t figured out yet how to slip it into his Dom Perignon without letting all the bubbles out.

        The Chihuahua is easy, though. I just throw the little bastard to my Salvador monitor lizard. Friendo isn’t quite big enough to do the job yet.

      • Old Gator - Nov 17, 2010 at 11:17 AM

        Oh yeah, and Beinfest. Time we had him tested for encroaching senile dementia. This trade has all the hallmarks of a very badly defective gene.

  3. jasonc2300 - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    Expanding on Craig’s final point, are there any nonwhite players commonly described as “blue collar”?

  4. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    Uggla is also in the best shape of his life.

  5. proudlycanadian - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    I would describe Alex Gonzalez as blue collar, but I doubt that anyone else has. There certainly does seem to be a racial factor in play here.

  6. rawstalk - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    This is a reach, but maybe Kirby Puckett was called blue-collar? Or was he more of a “lunch bucket” kind of guy? Maybe I’m mixing up lunch bucket with fire plug…

  7. chrisny3 - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:14 AM

    By the way, Uggla loves Backman, and said he’d run through a wall for him. He can’t say enough good things about him. Just sayin, since some don’t understand why Mets fans think Backman would make a good manager.

  8. nps6724 - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    I never hear non-whites called blue-collar or gritty. I also never hear whites called athletic. The white guy is always hardworking and smart while the non-white guy is blessed with great athleticism. Though I have heard DL and OL in football (regardless of race) called lunch-pail guys.

  9. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    No one in baseball is blue collar. In fact, they are closer to white collar than anything. Now why am I just finding out Uggla is a Brave? Damn work and it’s trappings…but anyway, HELL YES!

  10. packattack95 - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    If you listened to many Braves games this past season, Martin Prado and Infante was referenced as “blue collar” players by Bobby Cox all season long, especially Prado who was characterized “as tough as they come”….

  11. Jonny 5 - Nov 17, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    Black peoples and hispanic peoples have natrual talent, and white guys have to work really extra hard to be good enough for the MLB. That’s got to be it! I don’t know, I think it really doesn’t mean much. And I really don’t think that anyone really cares. It’s not as if it’s done out of spite or harmful or anything.
    Dan Uggla on the Braves. I look forward to the upcoming season very much.

    Loria has something to say to everyone. He requested this be sent to as many people as possible.

  12. RickyB - Nov 17, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    The only white guys in baseball that ever get referred to as athletic are pitchers, it seems to me. John Smoltz comes to mind — announcers would rave about his athleticism. Or perhaps it was simply that he was a great athlete, which may or may not be the same thing.

    • Ari Collins - Nov 17, 2010 at 11:13 AM

      I think in that case, there’s an understood “… you know, for a pitcher!” added. It’s really just another way to talk up a pitcher without saying, “He’s good at baseball.”

  13. BC - Nov 17, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    There were many nights – until he ran into injury issues – where I and many others thought Jim Edmonds was the best athlete on the field. I could name many other white position players that I’d say were great athletes.
    It’s totally a social predisposition and borderline prejudice but unfortunately the opinion exists. It’s the same reason Larry Bird was called “blue-collar” and “hard-working” – when in fact he was one of the two or three most athletically gifted players of his time (OK, except the dunking).

  14. Chris Fiorentino - Nov 17, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    White players are generally lesser athletes so whenever one of them does well, they are “blue-collar” because they had to work harder. Non-white players are better athletes, so whenever one of them does well, it is expected. Manny Ramirez was probably the best pure right-handed hitter of the last 25 years, yet nobody called him “blue-collar” because it came natural and he loafed around when he wasn’t hitting. But when David Eckstein gets a game-winning hit, he’s blue collar. Why? Because if he wasn’t “blue-collar” he would suck like the rest of us white guys.

    There are exceptions…I never felt Chase Utley was “blue collar”. Same with Jayson Werth. Those guys are just flat-out good athletes white, black or purple. But I have heard the term “blue collar” applied to J-Roll, Raul Ibanez and Valdez. Especially Valdez. Quite a few times, we heard how “blue collar” Valdez is because with less talent he did pretty well in place of J-Roll when he was hurt.

    Again…those are rare exceptions. The basic equation is this…White = “blue-collar” and Non-White = “Athlete who should be doing what he is doing anyway” It’s quite a racist smack in the face either way you look at it.

  15. metalhead65 - Nov 17, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    why do the media always have to the race card when there is no need to?maybe it’s because most white people like me have no athletic ability and when we see somebody like a uggla giving it everything he has we see him as 1 of us. a much better paid one of us to be sure but we can identify with him.if this makes me a racist fine I can live with that,but why is it ok for black people to identify with guys of their race and not be held to the same standard?

    • Ari Collins - Nov 17, 2010 at 1:11 PM

      The problem is that non-whites are very rarely identified as “giving it everything they have.” By saying that white athletes “outplay” their natural ability, you’re saying that non-white players lack that work ethic.

      Of COURSE it’s admirable when a player succeeds despite lesser physical tools. But the media predominantly focuses on the white players like this, very rarely calling anyone non-white “a gamer” or “gritty” or anything like that and trashing players like Manny, who, despite the impression he gives off, actually worked hard on his defense (god, who knows how much worse it’d have been otherwise!) and spends more time training in the batting cage than practically anyone.

    • tomemos - Nov 17, 2010 at 1:48 PM

      “maybe it’s because most white people like me have no athletic ability”

      Most PEOPLE have no athletic ability, regardless of race, at least not enough to play professional sports. This is the problem: there’s this presumption, going back at least to the integration of the Majors, that black people have natural, untutored athletic ability that they don’t have to work to develop, whereas white people have to earn athletic success through hard work. I’m not accusing you of having that presumption, and I think it’s generally unconscious, but you are unwittingly perpetuating that narrative. The problem with the narrative is that it doesn’t give nonwhite people credit for hard work. No one makes it to the Majors without a combination of amazing natural talent and hard work.

      Also, does it strike you as ironic that you complain about “the media always playing the race card” when this is Craig *complaining about the media* unselfconsciously repeating a stereotype?

  16. kathybaseball - Nov 17, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    I hate when things turn into a race issue :(

    • tomemos - Nov 17, 2010 at 3:09 PM

      I understand the sentiment, but this isn’t “turning into a race issue”–it’s already a race issue. Bringing it to the surface can be uncomfortable, but ultimately pointing out these unconscious stereotypes is the way you get rid of them.

      • kathybaseball - Nov 18, 2010 at 6:13 PM

        Maybe I’m naive but this thought NEVER even occurs to me when I hear an athlete described as blue collar. I think about the way the individual plays the game, not their skin color.

  17. Walk - Nov 18, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    Pirates and braves ss of old, rafael belliard. I remember him hitting what i believe was his only hr but that guy seemed to work hard on every play. I never saw him jog on dp grounder or even a pop up. Definetly someone i would call blue collar, to me any player that hustles like that is a blue collar type player regardless of any natural talent.

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