The Atlanta Braves woke up Sunday morning with the new reality that they will have to navigate the remainder of the 2021 season without the services of their best player in Ronald Acuña Jr. Acuña suffered a knee injury during the fifth inning of Saturday’s win in Miami and had to be carted off the field. An MRI exam later revealed a complete tear of the ACL in his right knee and he will miss the remainder of the season.
“It was what we didn’t want to hear,” Brian Snitker said while speaking to the media Sunday morning. “We were hoping it would be the best. It’s not. It’s just another punch in the gut that we got to endure.” Snitker added, “Ronald’s young, he’s strong. takes great care of himself. I expect him to recover and be just as strong as he ever was.”
In a season which will mostly be remembered for the players that were lost due to injury, Acuña was the one player that Atlanta could least afford to lose. He was in the middle of putting together another career-best season, but now the Braves will have to figure out how to press on without him.
“You’re not going to replace him,” Snitker said. “This guy is arguably the best player in the game right now.”
Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t mean that the Braves and Snitker will simply throw in the towel during the second half.
“We are just going to continue to play,” Snitker said of moving on. “The same when we lost Marcel the same when we lost Travis. We’ve been through that before. This isn’t new to this group of guys. They’ve all been through it. It’s just another punch in the gut.”
In addition to Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud, the Braves have lost Mike Soroka to another torn Achilles, Huascar Ynoa just as he was turning the corner and making an impact, Tucker Davidson and others. For every step forward, there has been two back.
It puts Atlanta in a tough spot with just under three weeks remaining before the trade deadline. The Braves won their third straight game Saturday reaching the .500 mark again at 44-44. They will begin play Sunday four games behind the Mets in the NL East standings. Selling seems unlikely unless the team craters coming out of the break, but would they really be buyers to try and prop a roster that coming into Sunday hasn’t spent a day above .500 and is now without its best player? That is the question that GM Alex Anthopoulos will be considering over the next few weeks.
“I know Alex, like I’ve said many times is always trying to make this club better, whether it’s during the year, it’s in the offseason,” Snitker said of Anthopoulos. “He’s tirelessly working to help this club out. I have complete faith in him and whatever he decides to do we’re going to roll with.”