Braves bench Ronald Acuña Jr. for admiring long fly that resulted in single
Acuña has been one of the best players in the National League all season
If the Atlanta Braves win the National League East, outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. will be one of the biggest reasons why. Acuña entered Sunday hitting .295/.375/.537 (129 OPS+) with 35 home runs and 29 stolen bases. In other words, he's likely to receive down-ballot MVP consideration -- perhaps more than that if he's able to record the fifth 40-40 season in history.
Yet on Sunday Acuña found himself benched. Manager Brian Snitker pulled Acuña after he cost himself extra bases by admiring a long flyball that remained in the park. Rather than a double, Acuña ended up with a long single. He was then thrown out trying to steal second base.
Here's a look at the play in question:
And here's Acuña heading to the dugout tunnel to receive the news of his removal:
After the game, Snitker explained his rationale:
There's a part in Leviticus that states no one wins an online argument about ballplayer hustle. Nevertheless, you can see some sense to both sides of the debate.
At the time of Acuña's long single, the Braves were trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by a 3-0 margin in the rubber game of a potential NL Championship Series preview. It stands to reason he didn't want his team taking anything for granted against an opponent as skilled as the Dodgers. Atlanta would go on to win by a 5-3 score thanks to a Rafael Ortega grand slam.
Of course, leaving Acuña in the game would've improved the Braves' chances of winning more than any symbolic statement. He's one of the best players in the NL for a reason, and you don't reach such lofty heights by being lazy or anything less than a hard worker. This wasn't even a momentary lapse in concentration so much as a misjudged ball. It happens.
And that's why none of this is likely to matter in a day or two's time. Acuña will presumably be back in the lineup on Tuesday, hitting homers and stealing bases and leading the Braves to victory.
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