pound column

I firmly believe that there is a Larry Munson quote for every situation. 

You and a friend come back to beat your buddies in a game of cornhole? “We just stepped on [your] face with a hobnail boot and broke [your] nose!” Bag of sugar bursts open when you’re pulling it down from the highest shelf in your cabinet? “Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!” Know a guy named Lindsay who just made his wife mad? “Run Lindsay!” The all-time broadcasting great even has some words from later on in that Lindsay Scott call that apply to this week’s column: “I gave up, you did too.”

The normally thrifty Atlanta Braves opened up their wallet Friday and took care of the team’s biggest want and need heading into the 2021 season. Outfielder Marcell Ozuna is back after putting up huge numbers last year. Having watched countless unrestricted free agents fly the coop in my years as a Braves fan, I was fully prepared to see Ozuna wear another uniform this spring. Ozuna’s bat more than filled the hole left by Josh Donaldson from the previous season, so fans wanted him back in a bad way. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos was feeling about as much pressure to re-sign Ozuna as Patrick Mahomes faced in Sunday’s Super Bowl. The leftfielder (using that term a little loosely) brings back a lifetime .276 batting average after a career-best .338 last year.  He helped the Braves get to the National League Championship Series with his 18 home runs and 56 RBI, and was the perfect person to hit behind MVP Freddie Freeman. Opponents had to throw to one of them, and they were constantly making pitchers pay for that fact.

Not only was Marcell Ozuna a key contributor statistics-wise, but by all accounts he is a great guy to have in your team dugout and clubhouse. The intangibles can mean almost as much, especially for a franchise that has aspirations of another deep playoff run. 

My college economics professor told me life is full of tradeoffs, and this Ozuna signing is no different. The deal looks to be pretty team-friendly at four years, $64 million, which is great considering the slugger is only 30. But the tradeoff here is the fact that he will have to actually play in the field this year after largely serving as a designated hitter during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Remember, there was a temporary change in the AL-only DH rule. Reports began coming out this week saying there will be no universal DH this year because apparently some people enjoy watching pitchers look completely inept at the plate. Apologies to guys like Mike Hampton, Tom Glavine, Dontrelle Willis and Rick Ankiel who were known to be pretty good with a bat. Ozuna only played defense in a third of Braves’ games last year, and showed why that was the case many times the ball was hit to him. Hopefully, this new deal will encourage him to put in some extra field work leading up to the 2021 season. 

With the universal DH rule, the Ozuna re-signing would have been a home run. Without it, the deal is a solid double, which is all right because every rally has to start somehow. 

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