Ever since the Braves decided to put him in the leadoff spot, Ronald Acuña Jr. has been turning heads with his level of play. This past week, he kicked things into high gear, to the point where he had homered in five straight games, with three of those coming in the form of homers to lead off the game for his team.
Simply put, Acuña is starting to show why everybody in Braves Country has been so high on him and why it was right for all of us to get excited about his arrival to the big league team. He’s been showing astonishingly bright flashes of what’s to come from him throughout his career and he was having fun while doing so.
Unfortunately, this is baseball and apparently having fun while playing the game is akin to insulting your mother and your grandmother as well, because Jose Ureña decided that it was time to teach the kid a lesson about how things are supposed to be done in baseball.
So after Ronald Acuña had sent the first pitch of each of his first at-bats in the past two games into the seats, Ureña went into business for himself and enforced the unwritten rules of the game by making sure that the first pitch of this particular at-bat was not going to land in the seats.
That was 100 percent intentional and I refuse to debate anybody who says otherwise and if you’re reading this then you should do the same. It’s very clear that the Marlins were sick of being on Acuña’s highlight reel and Ureña himself decided that he was going to do something about it. While it is true that Ureña has a habit of hitting batters, you’re not going to just “let one slip” on the first pitch of the game with one of the hardest pitches that you’ve ever thrown.
The pitch that hit Ronald Acuña was 97.5 MPH.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 16, 2018
Out of the 2,125 pitches that José Ureña has thrown this season, that's in the 99th percentile of the fastest pitches he's thrown.
That was also the fastest pitch José Ureña has ever thrown to open a game. pic.twitter.com/KYLVQvqER8
It was intentional, it was cowardly and it’s an example of everything that’s wrong with baseball. You’re going up against a budding star in the form of a 20-year-old who is starting to really hit his stride in a big way and instead of being brave and challenging the player by pitching better, you decided to make him wear a 98-mph heater with your very first pitch of the game.
It’s complete cowardice and what makes it worse is the fact that there have been some who have tried to defend it as part of baseball’s unwritten rules — as if flipping the bat makes it okay for the other team to try to injure someone. Here’s Keith Hernandez basically saying that the Marlins had to do it.
What a joke. It’s very simple — if you don’t want a guy to flip the bat or celebrate after hitting a home run or doing something else that impacts the game in a major way, maybe try getting the other guy out instead of trying to injure him. That would be the best way to stop that type of thing from happening, instead of doing something that has real malice behind it.
This also may come as a bit of a shock to non-Braves fans who are reading this and may be thinking “Hmmm, where was this Braves fan when his team was acting like the fun police for Carlos Gomez and Jose Fernandez a while back?” First off, that was years ago and the only thing that the Fernandez brawl and this most recent incident has in common with each other is the fact that Freddie Freeman was in the lineup for both games. There is nothing but laundry connecting those two incidents and I’ll be the first to admit that the Braves were in the wrong back then on both occasions.
That’s because it’s wrong to bean people or try to fight them just because they beat you and did it while showing emotion. It’s a part of baseball culture that is just plain stupid and the day that it’s completely gone from the game will be a great one. A good way to make sure that this doesn’t happen again would be for the Commissioner’s Office to actually levy some serious punishments for this type of thing.
Make the suspension a long one and the fine a heavy one, especially for cases like this where the recipient of the beanball did nothing to warrant getting hit. If you start going after their pockets and you take them off the field for a significant period of time, then that should be a deterrent to trying to injure players out of spite. Maybe you’ll think twice if you know it’ll cost you a lot of money and significant playing time if you try to pull something like that again.
Otherwise, if baseball continues to tolerate this type of behavior by only giving out slaps on the wrist for this stuff, then it’ll only be a matter of time before the next jovial guy who has the audacity to actually play well gets hit and possibly injured because it’s part of baseball’s unwritten rules to bean someone for that sort of thing.
Nobody is going to the ballpark or turning on their television to see guys getting hit because they dare to have fun while beating the other team. People want to see baseball players actually enjoying the game of baseball and they want to see star players doing what they do best.
It’s time to actually protect your main attractions and throw out the unwritten rules that are only dragging down the game as it progresses into its next era.