Ronald Acuna Jr was the headline of Major League Baseball all week. First for the right, baseball related reasons as he hit lead off home runs in three straight games and 5 straight overall. Then – he was in the headlines after Marlins starting pitcher Jose Urena hit him with a 97 MPH fastball in the elbow to lead off the fourth game of their series.
The beaning sparked controversy around baseball, as old school players like Keith Hernandez clashed with the common sense idea that a baseball thrown that fast is a weapon. If you were an artist, this would be another artist stabbing you with a paintbrush. If you were an accountant, this would be a fellow accountant throwing a calculator at you when you got a commendation for the Johnson account. Right?
No, in “old school” baseball culture, this is showing your opponent not to step too far on your pride. The memory is that Bob Gibson was a guy not afraid to brush back and hit batters to keep them in check. Bob Gibson had 102 hit batsmen. Ervin Santana has more than that. So that argument doesn’t work.
First though – the baseball part. See the video below for his home run streak, beaning, and return.
Six home runs in 5 games, and though it ended in his return yesterday, he still got a single and stole a base for good measure. Though his pulled home runs have some serious distance, for good measure he also hit a three run shot to the opposite field. He has certainly caught up quickly to Nationals outfielder Juan Soto who had been in the lead for National League Rookie of the Year since Acuna missed time due to an injury earlier in the season. A 20 year old versus a 19 years old – and two key pieces to the future of baseball.
Acuna has now played in 69 games with 19 HR, 43 RBI, OPS of .918 and 2.8 WAR.
Soto in 77 games has 15 HR, 43 RBI, OPS of .950 and 2.2 WAR.
The kid has a lot of talent, and though the injury kept him from a full season he should still get in over 100 games and over 20 home runs. Because we can compare, we will: Chipper Jones in his rookie season with the Braves hit 23 home runs…lest we forget: the Braves won the World Series in 1995 his rookie season. Could Acuna and his buddy Ozzie Albies do the same for this years team?
Most people immediately thought what Urena did was despicable and MLB did suspend him for six games. He will likely appeal of course and many thought it should be longer.
The Braves and Marlins were warned after the event and the Braves – who just care about winning games right now – did not retaliate. They currently hold a 1.5 game lead over the Phillies in the NL East and ahead by about 3 games total over the next wild card contender. It will be a fun final month and half in a crowded National League. Ronald Acuna will be a major part in determining just how well the Braves fare.