With the unceremonious plonking of Ronald Acuna Jr., Marlins starter Jose Urena reignited a debate that should have been long decided by now. I can’t believe I’m even saying this. Why is it acceptable for grown men who get paid millions of dollars to hurl baseballs at people intentionally? Make no mistake, the pitch Urena launched at the Braves rookie phenom was intentional, it was dangerous, and it shouldn’t be allowed in the modern game. What had Acuna done to deserve the headhunting treatment? Did he go into second spikes up, attempting to injure a Marlins infielder? Nope. Did he truck a catcher with the intent of injuring him? Nope. What he had done was become one of the most exciting players in baseball, hitting three, that’s right, three games in a row with home runs. Urena’s response, instead of challenging a hot young hitter, was to throw his second fastest pitch of the season at the rookie’s dome. While he claims (as one would) that the pitch was intended to get a hot hitter back from the plate, Urena has hit more batters than anyone in the majors in the past few years. So, either he’s not very good at this whole pitching thing ((which he is), or he’s made a habit of being the Marlins designated hit man (which he has). Either way, a six-game suspension is hardly an acceptable punishment for an unprovoked attack that could literally kill a fellow player. Let’s see how many of these types of hatchet jobs keep happening if the penalty is twenty games instead of a single start…
Remember when I told you that the Red Sox were scorching hot and threatening the record for most wins in a season? Well, yeah, they’ve won eight of their last ten and are now level with the pace of the two winningest teams in MLB history, looking for the magic number of 116 wins. That’s just an absurd number, and methinks that the pace will cool off, now that they’re more than ten games up on the second-best team in the majors, which, I should mention, plays in their division. Yes, that’s really scary. Also tempering lofty expectations is the stiff and sore throwing shoulder of Chris Sale, who is back on the ten-day DL, and will miss two starts. The Red Sox have weathered his absence before, and they’ll want to be sure that he’s healthy come October, so don’t be surprised to see him used more sparingly than the Fenway faithful would like down the stretch. Without any pressure for the number one seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs almost assured, it’s going to be more about health than anything else come October.
Don’t look now, but with as we get closer to September, the AL West is becoming an amazing race to watch. Houston and Oakland are essentially level, with the Mariners only 3.5 games back. Expect some fireworks here, because the second wildcard team is almost definitely coming from the West. Houston has suffered a rough patch at a bad time, dropping seven of their last ten as Oakland (one of the only teams in the majors with a winning record over the Red Sox), has been on a roll. The defending champs haven’t looked all that vulnerable thus far, but with the panic move of bringing in Roberto Osuna and the chance of missing the playoffs altogether, we’ll soon see what kind of stuff they’re made of.
Only one team in the entire NL has over seventy wins thus far, the Cubs, who are still in a race with the Brewers for the Central. Atlanta and Philly are in a dead heat in the East, while everyone but the Padres has a legit shot at winning the NL West. I’m not saying that the National League is weak, necessarily, but those 71-win Cubs would be in third place in two of the AL’s three divisions…food for thought.
Image source: AP