Coming into his first plate appearance against Marlins pitcher Jose Urena, Ronald Acuna Jr. was on fire. And that’s putting it mildly. The 20-year old phenom had 8 home runs in as many games. So what did Jose Urena do with his first pitch? He didn’t try to blow a fast ball by Acuna. He didn’t try to fool him with a curve ball either. No, Urena cowardly threw a 97 mph fastball right at Acuna, hitting him in the elbow as Acuna tried to get out of the way in vain. The benches cleared and Urena was tossed after one pitch.
But rather than send a message of its own, MLB chose to go the other route and suspended Urena for only 6 games. You may be thinking, “6 games? That sounds like a decent enough message.” But you’d be forgetting that Urena is a starting pitcher. 6 games means that he only misses one start. What kind of a message does that send? A lame one. By giving Urena a slap on the wrist, MLB is tacitly acknowledging that what Urena did is part of the game of baseball. Even though throwing at a guy simply because he’s on fire has no place in baseball or any sport.
Baseball has a plunking problem the same was that hockey has a fighting problem. Namely, both are problems only neither MLB nor the NHL views them as such. They’re seen as parts of the sports. In baseball, batters are thrown at for all sorts of inane reasons: Taking too long to make the trot around the bases after a home run, running across the pitcher’s mound after an out rather than going around it, retribution for one’s own player being hit by a pitch. And the list goes on.
MLB needs to realize that the baseball is a weapon. Urena threw a 97 mph pitch at Acuna. Luckily Acuna is okay, but what if Urena was a bit off and hit Acuna in the head with that ball? We’ve seen players get brain bleeds from getting hit in the head with baseballs. We’ve all seen that scary moment or heard that awful sound of the ball hitting a guy in the head. Doesn’t MLB realize that it needs to do whatever it can to eliminate the risk of a player dying or becoming brain dead? Are they that shortsighted?
The situation with Urena gave MLB a belt-high juicy pitch to go after. MLB wasted the opportunity and called for a sacrifice bunt, only nobody was on base and there was nothing to be gained. Only the players were sacrificed. Furthermore, now, when this happens again, as it surely will, MLB will only have itself to blame. Maybe next time MLB will have the guts to swing away and do what’s right for the game of baseball, and, more importantly, for the players.
Note: Our editor’s fantasy team name is, you guessed it, Acuna Matata. What a nerd.