Atlanta Braves rookie Ronald Acuna, only 20, has already made a name for himself as one of the most exciting players in baseball. Coming into tonight’s game he’d homered in five straight games, including the last three as a leadoff man. He never had a chance to tie the Major League record of four straight because he was pegged with the first ball thrown tonight by Marlins pitcher Jose Urena.
Only Urena and the Marlins know if this was intentional. It’s clear the optics are terrible and they’ll have a hard time convincing anyone it was simply an errant fastball.
On its face this looks like the dumbest and detrimental implementation of the unwritten rules imaginable. To hit one of the game’s young stars just because he’s kicking your rear end, for no other reason than spite, is ludicrous. There is a time and a place to send a message, but this definitely wasn’t it. There’s a way to do it, and this isn’t it.
To throw at Acuna would be to admit that you’re out of ideas, that you can’t beat him, that he’s broken you. If you lack the skill set to brush a man off the plate without missing by a foot-plus, you don’t deserve to be on the mound.
The upstart Braves are in the midst of a playoff chase. Acuna is a major part of their hopes and dreams. For now it looks as though he escaped injury, though a pitch like this could have led to a broken bone and a shortened season.
Again, we don’t know for sure what this was, and may never get a definitive answer. But we know what it looks and smells like. And it stinks to high heaven.