The Atlanta Braves and Ronald Acuna Jr. can breathe a sigh of relief with the news Acuna isn’t seriously hurt. After being purposely hit in last night’s bench-clearing incident and incident pointing to a problem in baseball.
If you missed last night’s Braves game you missed a prime example of why baseball may be struggling to gain popularity. Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena didn’t wait to see if the rookie Acuna would extend his exciting leadoff homer streak that had all of baseball buzzing.
Instead, he buried a 97.5 MPH fastball into Acuna’s arm sending him walking down the third base line in agony. Ender Inciarte and Brian Snitker led the charge from the dugout wasting no time letting the Marlins know just what they thought of Urena’s cowardly actions.
Old school baseball didn’t demand Acuna be hit, despite some baseball pundits insistence otherwise.
Acuna is an exciting superstar with flair and talent Major League Baseball so badly needs. What was his reward for playing well against the purposely tanking Marlins? A fastball and injury scare from a pitcher who deserves a suspension for his actions.
Taking on Acuna brushing him off the plate or throwing a breaking ball would have been appropriate responses. Finding a way to get him out, not hitting the youngster for doing his job.
It is systemic of why baseball is demanding fewer eyeballs while the NBA and NFL are the talks of the sports world.
Urena made what appeared to be a solo decision throwing at Acuna. While the Braves response time may have been slow their fiery charge was led by manager Brian Snitker who was tossed along with Urena.
Watching Snitker take up for Acuna yelling at Marlin’s pitcher Jose Urena pointed out why this team is engaging and what has made them special.
They are a brand of baseball all teams should be striving for. Focusing on truly being a team in every sense of the word while putting the ball in play consistently. The Braves are aggressive baserunners not striking out every other batter swinging for the fences keeping games interesting.
With a mix of veterans and exciting young position players, they are balanced and never give up on a game until the last out.
Baseball must evolve towards this becoming the norm if the game hopes to grow. Evolve into a game that treats Jose Urena’s actions much the same the NFL treats a dirty hit on the quarterback or the NBA addresses conflicts.
Throwing at a young 20-year old player facing the pressures of baseball shouldn’t be shaken off as “part of the game” it isn’t. Or at least shouldn’t be any more in a day where baseball needs to engage and set an example for its young viewers.
Yes, baseball is a wonderful game full of history and heroes from the past, but this doesn’t demand it remains stuck in the past. Instead, it demands change, changes keeping baseball relevant making it more interesting without changing the beautiful game that it is.
That change should begin with Major League Baseball sending a message to Jose Urena. A message that his actions won’t be tolerated anymore.