The story of Dan Uggla is an ancient one, told by generations of parents to generations of children.
"Well, back in twenty-ought fourteen..."
"Papa, wouldn't the ought signify a zero after the twenty, meaning it was the year twenty thousand and fourteen?"
"You shut the hell up and listen to me talk about bad baseball players."
The Giants were desperate to try anyone, anyone other than Joe Panik at second base. So they signed Dan Uggla, called him up, and when he was terrible, they felt they had no choice but to turn to Panik, who ripped off his mask to reveal he had been Apollo all along, and led the Giants to a World Series victory. People have been fondly reminiscing about that since Panik made the All-Star team:
Remember when the Giants played Dan Uggla before they tried Panik?— Deport Donald Trump (@rowast) June 24, 2015
A reminder that Giants briefly played Dan Uggla last season bc they didn't think Joe Panik was ready for the bigs. Now Panik is an All Star— Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) July 6, 2015
Jonah Keri added a little more context in his excellent Grantland article about the Giants' excellent infield:
Fed up with the failure of those fill-ins, they promoted Panik on June 21 and handed him the starting job. That, too, went horribly: In Panik’s first 21 big league games, he hit an atrocious .206/.261/.238. The situation grew so dire that the Giants even took a flier on Dan Uggla — Dan Uggla! — for four games, before coming to their senses and going back to Panik.
After a little bit of evaluation in the minors, the Giants promoted a veteran who certainly wasn't going to play well to the majors. It was the ultimate desperation move, it didn't work, and the Giants settled on Joe Panik as the starter by default after that veteran couldn't produce.
Oh, sorry, that last paragraph wasn't about Dan Uggla. It was about Marco Scutaro.
See that? See the old switcheroo there? See how I what do you mean you saw it coming because you looked at the picture at the top of this article. Dammit, I have got to stop telegraphing these twists.
Marco Scutaro was the one who got called up because the Giants didn't think Panik or Ehire Adrianza or Brandon Hicks was the answer at second base, and hey, they were sure right about two of those guys! Uggla wasn't called up because the Giants were desperate for an answer; he was called up because they were desperate for a healthy body at second base. Joe Panik injured his ankle on July 22 and was unable to start for a week. On July 24, Adrianza injured his hamstring and Panik left the park in a walking boot.. The only other second baseman on the roster was Joaquin Arias. The Giants didn't overrate Uggla or give up on Panik for the four days he started. They just literally had no other choice.
Scutaro, on the other hand, was called up when there were other healthy options even though he was absolutely not going to be able to start at second base. Here's a timeline of his rehab (all dates in 2014):
June 20: Scutaro takes BP with the team for the first time during the season. He has "shown no improvement since Spring Training"
June 21: The Giants do not think Scutaro will be a full-time starter
June 24: Scutaro plays in a rookie league game. He goes 0-for-2.
June 27: The Giants plan for Scutaro to play 4 or 5 innings in a rookie league game. He plays 3. He does not get a hit.
June 30: Scutaro plays 4 innings in a rookie league game. "With him," Pavs says, "it's just a good sign that he continues to take the field."
July 2: The Giants plan to give Scutaro 5 innings in rookie league. He goes 3, but gets a couple hits.
July 3: Scutaro is supposed to play 5 innings in his first back-to-back games of the year. He goes 2, because a dust storm cancels the game. They plan to play him the next day, but it gets pushed to July 5, where he gets 3 PAs. I don't know how many inning that is, but it's probably not 9.
July 7: Scutaro tells Bochy he's ready, but they want him to get a few more reps in AAA just to be sure. He goes 1-for-3 for Fresno in 5 innings out of a planned 7. He strikes out twice
July 8: Scutaro plays 6 innings for Fresno, going 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts.
July 10: Scutaro makes his final rehab start for the Grizzlies. He goes 0-for-3 with a HBP and two strikeouts. I do not know how many innings he played.
July 11: Marco Scutaro is called up. He "knows he's still in a lot of pain and that won't go away."
Is there literally any part of that timeline that reads like Marco Scutaro was ready to play baseball at a major league level? At all? How about this: his OPS was .641 in rookie league and .282 in AAA. Or how about the fact that in every game where he was supposed to play a set number of innings, he played less? Or that Marco Scutaro, whose entire offensive game was built on making contact and not striking out, struck out 6 times in 10 AAA plate appearances?
If you want desperation, that's desperation. If you want to see a team not trusting its options, that is the very model of a modern major disaster. Dan Uggla was a guy the Giants took a flier on, and didn't have time to evaluate in the minors because two second basemen got injured in three days. Did you know that Tony Abreu got called up along with him? Because he did! And then he got DFA'd about four seconds later. Maybe less. Probably less.
Marco Scutaro was a shell of himself and his back was a ticking clock. That's good for upping the tension in mediocre movies, but bad for a baseball player. And we all remember Uggla's 0-for-11 with 2 errors and -0.3 fWAR, but Scutaro went 1-for-11 with -0.2 fWAR and threw a ball during BP that hit Brandon Belt in the head and knocked him out for two months. Six black jellybeans of one, half a dozen black licorice of the other.
Am I saying that you shouldn't criticize the Uggla deal? Of course not. Criticizing Dan Uggla is a delightful pastime that the whole family can enjoy, and he was legitimately not worth a roster spot. But looking at the Uggla deal like it meant the Giants didn't believe in Joe Panik isn't really the case. Looking at the Scutaro call-up like it meant the Giants didn't believe in Joe Panik is a totally different story. Calling up Scutaro was the Giants' way of throwing shit at the wall to see what stuck, and calling up Uggla was their way of digging in the ground because "Oh God oh God what do we do let's find more shit." They were both bad. But the Scutaro move was sillier, because there legitimately were other options on the roster.
In conclusion, the Giants won the World Series last year, so...