Two Unrelated Thingies

1. Watched WALL-E for the first time last night on TV. Most of my moving picture watching is coming courtesy of cable these days, so I get to be the guy who talks about movies two years after they’re topical.

That’s okay, though, because WALL-E is terrific — one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, period, no qualifications. It’s really stunning to me that a romance between a trash compacter on treads and a floating iPod is more natural and touching to me than any romance I’ve ever seen between humans in fiction.

It’s also interesting to me that the movie manages to show so much without real dialogue for at least half the movie. I’m always interested in unconventional storytelling techniques, and the way WALL-E manages to be so endearing despite never really saying a word is impressive. We know everything about him just by watching him go about his daily routine.

2. It looks like the Braves are close to signing Dan Uggla to a 5-year, $60 million extension. At first, I was against it — $12 million a year for a non-elite hitter who can’t really play defense?

As I thought about it more, though, I began to come around on it. The price of players has gone up. The price of marginal wins has gone up. With unlimited money, Jayson Werth would have been a perfect addition for the Braves this offseason, but his caliber of player is simply out of the Braves’ league right now. Dan Uggla is probably better than anyone the Braves could sign for $12 million per year on the open market this time next year. Moreover, if the Braves let Uggla walk, they’ll be in that exact situation next year — having to fish around on the trade market for a right-handed power hitter to stick in the middle of the order. Better to just get it out of the way and sign the guy you have (and who, by all accounts, is thrilled to be a Brave and has every reason to stay).

I also think it may — may, as in it’s definitely a secondary consideration, you don’t do it unless you’re fairly confident with regards to on-the-field value — help long-term as well. The Phillies are really good right now, and the Braves need to be really good over the next few years as well. When Tommy Hanson, Brian McCann, and Jason Heyward start hitting free agency several years from now, the Braves need to be able to go to them and say “Look, we’re not the Yankees. But we’ve always attempted to compensate our stars to the best of our ability. We signed Chipper, we signed Andruw, we signed Hudson, we signed Uggla. We are always looking to compete, and we want [impending free agent] to join in that tradition.” The Braves aren’t ever going to be able to compete with the Yankees’ Monopoly money, so they need to be able to offer other things — respect, a winning team, a leadership position, and a history of fair dealings — to the young players they really want to keep. They won’t be able to offer these things if they hit a dry spell as a result of cheapskating on players and are uncompetitive for several years. If Heyward signs with the Yankees in 2016 I may well cry tears of blood.

Sure, the last two years of the contract might look ugly (another advantage: it keeps Atlanta’s headline writers in clover for years to come) by the fourth or fifth year, but it may have paid for itself by then. And who knows? He might go all Jeff Kent on us and be a real steal. One thing to like about Uggla is that he was never a real prospect, not ever. He made himself, if not a star, then at least a really good player out of sheer hard work. That kind of player might be less willing to sit back on his laurels after signing a big contract than one who got to where he is based on natural talent.


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