For those who do not know rookie-sensation Ronald Acuña of the Atlanta Braves, you were most likely informed of who he was during last night’s bench-clearing scuffle between the revitalized Braves and the scum-of-the-Earth Miami Marlins.
Acuña, the 20-year-old outfielder old born in Venezuela, had been riding an eight-game hitting streak coming into last night’s game, hitting a whopping eight home runs in that same span. That’s an incredible pace and although it probably wouldn’t have continued for much longer, it is impressive nonetheless.
José Ureña, the starting pitcher for the Marlins, took the ball for the bottom of the first, wound up, and threw a 97 mph fastball right at Acuña’s hands. Acuña instinctively flinched and turned his back towards Ureña. The heater, that seemingly faded into the right-handed hitter, struck him on his left elbow and had him grasping it in agony. Acuña knocked off his helmet in disgust and then both teams’ benches cleared and Braves manager Brian Snitker was ejected from the game shortly after airing his grievances with the home plate umpire.
Plunking a young star who had been on an absolute tear is simply dumb. Supposedly, Acuña showed up the Marlins from the previous night when he mashed two home runs in the same game. Whether or not Ureña hit him for the former or latter reason is irrelevant because the act of intentionally hitting Acuña is ridiculous.
Baseball might be one of the only sports where celebrating an action could have severe consequences such as getting plunked or inciting a bench-clearing brawl. Sports such as football, hockey, basketball, and soccer have players celebrate all the time and only football really has any punishments in the form of a 15-yard penalty flag, and even they are lenient with this.
If a hitter wants to celebrate his home run, he should have every right to do so, especially if it’s a pressure situation and the player comes through in the clutch (see David Bote of the Chicago Cubs, who recently apologized for hitting a walk-off grand slam). It’s something that has always puzzled me about professional baseball: if a player wants to celebrate, let him. Unless the hitter stops at second base, points at the pitcher, pulls down his pants, and slaps his behind, it should not really be necessary to throw at that same hitter the next time he is at bat.
Baseball is a great sport and I don’t hate most of the unwritten rules that are apart of the game, but getting thrown at for admiring a home run or even just being good at baseball is crazy. Baseball is already lacking mainstream star power and potentially taking out one if it’s budding young stars during a playoff race because this player is having fun is dangerous for the game.
José Ureña wound up getting tossed from Wednesday night’s showdown between the Marlins and Braves, deservedly so. There is somewhat of a grey area when it comes to if it is acceptable to throw at a batter because everyone’s intentions can be interpreted differently. There are certain aspects of a traditionalist’s game of baseball that are pure and make it the sport that it is. Acuña getting plunked for doing nothing is one of those aspects that incites an exciting action (a bench-clearing brawl), but really is not necessary for today’s game.
We should let players who want to celebrate a big home run or strikeout celebrate the way they want. If Ronald Acuña wants to celebrate a home run in front of his home crowd, he should not have to worry about leather hitting him at over 90 mph. Who knows, his home run streak might have continued past last night’s game and could have been an historic streak.
I didn’t know a ton about Acuña before maybe a couple of weeks ago, but this kid is filthy and deserves to be recognized by the global baseball audience. Since the All-Star break, he is hitting .358 with 12 home runs, 24 RBIs, and a whopping 1.246 OPS. That’s pretty darn good.
If a pitcher wants to get back at someone, maybe try and strike them out next time? Just a thought.
Although, this idea from Coley Mick at Barstool Sports isn’t that bad: