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It’s gonna be hilarious when the Braves send Ronald Acuna down for “seasoning”


Most 19 year-olds, even the best ones, are revealed at some point to not be ready for the next level. They’re 19. It happens. But in 2017 Braves outfield prospect Ronald Acuna showed that no minor league level was ready for him.

He started last year’s campaign at high-A Florida, where he hit .287/.336/.478 in 28 games. He then moved on to Double-A Mississippi, where he hit .326/.374/.520 with nine homers and 19 steals in 243 plate appearances. You’d figure at his age that Triple-A would eat him alive, but he then went on to Gwinnett and hit .344/.393/.548 in 243 plate appearances with nine homers 14 doubles and 11 stolen bases. All together he hit .325/.366/.522 with 21 homers, 44 steals and 31 doubles across three levels. He didn’t turn 20 until December.

So far this spring Acuna is continuing to rake. Entering play yesterday he led the Grapefruit League in average, hitting .412, and OBP, reaching base at a .512 clip. He went 1-for-2 with a homer, his third of the spring. He’s not just padding those numbers against tomato cans, either. All three of his homers have come off of legit big league pitchers: Masahiro Tanaka, Aaron Sanchez and Mike Fiers. We know spring training stats don’t mean a heck of a lot, but between them, his minor league track record and the fact that he is the consensus top prospect in baseball, with scouts raving about him, it’s safe to say that Acuna is major league ready.

All of which is going to make it hilarious when the Braves cut him and send him to the minors to start the season, as they are widely expected to do.

You know and I know why they’ll do it: service time. If they keep Acuna down for a couple of weeks in April, he won’t get enough service time in 2018 to make him a potential free agent until after the 2024 season as opposed to the 2023 season. We saw the Cubs do this with Kris Bryant a couple of years back. We’ve seen a lot of guys go through this. Barring something extraordinary happening, I strongly suspect the Braves will do it with Acuna too.

At this point people tend to shout “Hey, it’s the smart play! You’d do it too if you were the Braves! It could save them millions and it won’t make a difference given that they won’t be contending in 2018. That’s how the system is set up and you can’t blame the Braves for taking advantage of it!”

Save it. I know this. I’ve heard it a million times and I don’t really care. I don’t care — and you should not care either — because neither you or I are the general manager of the Atlanta Braves. It’s not our money the Braves would be saving, it’s Liberty Media’s money. It’s not our job to make sure the Braves are cost conscious or competitive from year to year, it’s the club’s. If Acuna is approaching free agency on a winning Braves team in 2023 instead of 2024, the Braves will still have the same basic decision to make about his future and, if they’re smart, they’ll have made it long before then anyway. If one year of free agency of one key player is the difference between the Braves winning and losing, they’ve not done the best job they could building a team anyway.

My interest is as a fan and, as a fan, I want the Braves to put the best team they possibly can put together now, later and far into the future, not just far into the future. I will be a lot more excited about the team I root for if Ronald Acuna is on the club on Opening Day and some appeal to efficiency and cost consciousness come 2024 will not make me enjoy watching Lane Adams any more than I already do.

If you feel differently about that, fine, but I’d ask you to ask yourself why you feel it necessary to view things from the perspective of the front office as opposed to the perspective of a fan who, each day, should want to see the best players the organization has to offer. I’d also ask you to ask yourself why you take the front office at face value when it says stuff like “we can’t afford Player X when he hits free agency, so we need to keep his costs down now.” Such assertions, which are implicit in any appeal to the wisdom of keeping Acuna down on the farm to start the season, are not deserving of blind acceptance, especially from a club who just saw its revenues skyrocket because of a new taxpayer-funded ballpark. Such appeals to the future, which cannot be rationally questioned given the way they are poised,  are stacked against the fan in the present.

None of which will sway most of you, I presume, and none of which will sway the Braves. I strongly suspect Acuna will be sent down and, when he is, I strongly suspect most fans will applaud it as a shrewd move. If he does get sent down, the Republic will not fall and the world will not end. He’ll be up eventually, probably by May. We will not have been harmed too terribly much by that delay, even if Acuna’s eventual financial windfall is put off a year. After all, just as the Braves money is not our money, neither is Acuna’s.

I will be eager to hear the reasoning for his demotion when it comes, however, because we know from experience it will not be honest. Yes, the Braves are within their rights to send Acuna down, but they are almost certainly unwilling to say such a thing. As the Cubs did with Kris Bryant, they will say he has to work on his defense or some other aspect of his game that is less than perfectly quantifiable and thus, like appeals to the future, defensible via an appeal to the club’s authority. Part of me hopes they get super creative with it. “Acuna is great, but he really hasn’t mastered the traffic patterns in Cobb County yet, and we want to send him to our suburban Triple-A team so he can get a better feel for cloverleaf interchanges in a lower pressure situation” would be a good one. Feel free to use it, Braves.

In the meantime, we can all marvel at the silliness of it all. At how and why a baseball team would deprive itself of one of its best players, even if for only a few weeks, and what that means for the way the game is arranged, financially speaking. And why, despite the clear reason being a financial one, they will not simply admit that that’s what they’re doing, even if they have the right.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Angels 8, Astros 7: Charlie Morton and Shohei Ohtani have been two of the most talked about pitchers to start the season and they faced off in this one. Not too stellar a faceoff, unfortunately, as Mike Trout homered off of the first pitch Morton threw him and Andrelton Simmons followed him in the act. The Angels would score two more off of him in the third and he wouldn’t last four. Meanwhile, Ohtani gave up four runs, including a homer to Derek Fisher and would see another run for which he was responsible score on a Brian McCann go-ahead blast. His night would end having given up four runs as well. Anaheim tied it back up on an Albert Pujols single and then Simmons would hit his second homer of the night — a three-run shot — to give the Angels a lead they would not surrender. Fun fact: Mike Scioscia ran out of mound visits in this one. Unless I missed one, he was the first manager to do so in a game since the mound visit rule was established.

Cubs 10, Indians 3🎶Kyle Schwarber came back to Ohio . . . and his city was gone . . . but the guy who wrote about it . . . was a Republican pawn . . . A, oh, way to go O-hi-o . . .🎶 Two homers for the best thing to come out of Middletown, Ohio over the past decade or so. A homer each for Willson Contreras and Ian Happ. Same result as Game 7 in 2016. Pretty much the same weather too. Unfit for man or beast or Josh Tomlin

Yankees 8, Twins 3: Gary Sanchez hit two homers and Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius each went deep as well, with Sanchez and Gregorius each driving in three. Didi has been having such a fantastic year that, eventually, I’m assuming the people who run the ads at Yankee Stadium will spell his name right:

Mets 6, Cardinals 5: Jay Bruce‘s tenth inning homer gave the Mets a lead they’d hold on to for the win. Yoenis Cespedes hit a homer earlier that I’m pretty sure killed (a) a baseball; and (b) Luke Weaver:

463 feet, my man.

In other news, Matt Harvey entered in the top of the fifth inning of this one for his first relief appearance since his demotion to the pen. It didn’t go great. He gave up a run on back-to-back two-out doubles and left after throwing 35 pitches, only 20 of which were strikes. In still other news, the Cardinals initiated a replay challenge after Bruce’s homer, claiming he missed first base. He didn’t miss first base and it wasn’t even particularly close, so I have no idea what the Cardinals were doing there. La Russa may be gone but part of his essence still lingers, I suppose.

Rockies 8, Padres 0: Eight runs in Colorado — seven of them coming in the first two innings — isn’t news, but seven shutout innings from a starting pitcher is. That’s what Kyle Freeland did for the Rockies, striking out eight and grabbing the win. Trevor Story hit a grand slam. There was a scary moment when Freeland was hit by a comebacker, but he stayed in the game. Rockies manager Bud Black said it may have helped: “It smoothed him out. He didn’t overthrow. His focus might have been more heightened, because he was in a little bit of discomfort.” Sources say that Black plans to kick Freeland square in the beans just before he takes the mound for his next start on Sunday.

Giants 4, Nationals 3: Mac Williamson hit his second big homer in as many nights and once again helped the Giants to a win, with his sixth inning solo shot putting San Francisco up for good. The Giants other three runs came via a Brandon Belt two-run homer and a first inning wild pitch from Tanner Roark. Williamson credited the adrenalin from running into a wall the previous half inning for his homer. In light of that, sources say that Bruce Bochy plans to kick Williamson square in the beans just before his first at bat in his next game this afternoon.

Mariners 1, White Sox 0: Marco Gonzales (6 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 8K) and four M’s relievers combine for a five-hit shutout and Mitch Haniger‘s RBI single in the fourth was all the scoring. Chris Volstad got the start for the White Sox. He did pretty good considering, you know, he isn’t really a starter. The White Sox are off to their worst start in 68 years. I wonder how they’d be doing if they, you know, tried.

Reds 9, Braves 7: Cincy took a 5-0 lead behind some dominant pitching from Tyler Mahle, no-hitting the Braves until the seventh inning, but the Braves finally figured him out and crushed the first couple of relievers who followed him, eventually tying things up with four runs in the ninth. Scooter Gennett put an end to Atlanta’s comeback-win delusions, however, launching a two-run walkoff homer in the 12th. That was Gennett’s second homer of the night and his third and fourth RBI. Freddie Freeman went deep twice for Atlanta, both solo shots.

Diamondbacks 8, Phillies 4: Alex Avila went deep and had three hits and Daniel Descalso and Jarrod Dyson also homered. Dbacks starter Robbie Ray struck out 11 Philly batters but couldn’t escape the fifth inning. I imagine Philly fans either didn’t care or didn’t notice since the Sixers were playing. This is a good time of year for baseball teams in hockey and basketball towns to fly under the radar for a bit.

Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3: Curtis Granderson threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the ninth inning and then hit a walk-off homer in the 10th — off of Craig Kimbrel no less — to give the Jays the win in the team’s first game since Monday’s deadly terrorist attack killed ten in the city. The Sox lose their third straight game and suffer their first loss to the Jays in Rogers Centre in their last eight meetups.

Athletics 3, Rangers 2: Andrew Triggs allowed only one run over six innings while scattering for hits and punching out six. Mark Canha homered and Jed Lowrie and Matt Olson each doubled in a run to help Oakland to their fourth straight win. Worse news for Texas than the loss was Adrian Beltre straining his left hamstring. No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, but it’s kind of ridiculous that, 25 games into the season, three of the club’s four Opening Day infielders are hurt and the fourth one is playing left field.

Brewers 5, Royals 2: Lorenzo Cain homered against his old team, but that was just late gravy. Earlier Travis Shaw hit a three-run shot that put the game away in the third inning. Sal Perez made his first appearance of 2018 after coming off the disabled list and hit a solo shot. Zach Davies picked up the win after allowing two over six.

Marlins 3, Dodgers 2: L.A. took a 2-1 lead into the eighth but Starlin Castro doubled in the tying run that inning and Cameron Maybin doubled in the go-ahead run in the ninth. The Fish snap their five-game losing streak.

Rays vs. Orioles; Tigers vs. Pirates — POSTPONED: The 27th and 28th rainouts of the year so far. So it seems appropriate . . .

28 days of rain
Flash floods in February
Back in our boats again
Bath water and the baby
What am I gonna do?
There’s been a lot of drinking
Looking at ghosts of you
While all the world is sinking

10.000 miles into the atmosphere
My body shakes
Is there a welcome here?

Closest thing to heaven
How do you do it?
Closest thing to heaven, heaven