Oh, boy. Not only was his article not timely – the Braves won Game 2 of the NLDS before his piece of trash was pushed out – but Phil Mushnick’s “Braves’ Ronald Acuna is doing his part in ruining baseball” article that published Saturday afternoon from the New York Post is just another example why outlets like the New York Post is considered more a tabloid home than one for news coverage.
Mushnick, when he’s not being critical of rap music and wrestling, sometimes writes about baseball, too. A few months ago, he suggested that Yankees catcher, Gary Sanchez, “doesn’t know a thing about baseball.” He also is known to whine incoherently about bat flips. Today, he centered on Acuña Jr.
Before I get started…next time, put some respect on Ronnie’s name and use the tilde. Thanks.
It grows tiresome, redundant, writing about baseball in steady ruin.
Fortunately, nobody is forcing you, too. There’s a lot of amazing things happening in the game right now. Even Acuña, who you think is ruining baseball, is a big part of how amazing the game is right now. Mike Trout, the sons of 90’s stars arriving on the scene, the Dodgers, the Astros…the list quite literally goes on and on. Baseball is absolutely and truly incredible right now. Only an old, out-of-touch, and cranky blowhard would fail to see that.
Oh. Right. We’re talking about Phil Mushnick.
To ignore the impossibly foolish and preposterously selfish play of the Braves’ Ronald Acuna on Thursday night would be to ignore what contributed to his team’s Game 1 loss vs. the Cards.
I wrote about this already, but it’s quite doubtful if Acuña’s actions led to the Braves missing a run, let alone lead to a loss or even contribute in any notable way. In fact, Acuña’s bat gave his team a much closer shot at winning the game than they deserved considering how poorly the bullpen performed.
Even his teammates and manager were unable to dismiss it as anything other than inexcusable.
Probably because the media surrounded them and then pushed the narrative into exhaustion, but I digress.
Acuna, benched in August for failure to run out what he thought was a home run — he turned a double or more into a single — led off the bottom of the seventh, Braves up, 3-1.
Acuna golfed one deep down the right field line, several yards fair, then gave it a stylish hop, jogging toward first while carrying his bat in anticipation of a nice, slow, immodest home run trot.
The ball hit the base of the wall. Acuna, who minimally should have been at second, stood at first. The Braves would not score that inning and lost, 7-6.
There are multiple problems here including the fact that you shouldn’t start consecutive paragraphs with the same word. But again, I digress. Twice in this “review of the facts,” Mushnick hints that Acuña may have had more than a double had he been running hard out of the box. Uh, no. The ball clanged off the wall right to Dexter Fowler, who possesses a strong arm and got the ball into the infield quickly. Mushnick knows this, though. He’s trying to pile on. He is aware that Acuña may or may not score from second in the inning. After all, the results that followed certainly didn’t lead to the chances of scoring being very high. But scoring from third base with no outs? The only situation that leads to a run more frequently is a homer.
But Acuña was never going to get to third base to open the inning. That doesn’t help Phil’s narrative here. He’s trying so hard to crap all over a talented 21-year-old player who is better now at playing baseball than Mushnick has ever been at being a journalist for the century or so Mushnick has been at this.
Just to put a bow on it and definitely not to defend Acuña’s choice not to run, the ball hit the bricks above the base of the wall. It came off the wall with such force that it nearly got over Fowler’s head.
He would have never reached third base short of the ball actually getting passed Fowler on the ricochet.
On TBS, play-by-play man Brian Anderson played it honestly, suspiciously, perfectly:
“I had my eyes on the ball. I don’t know if he busted it out of the box. But he ends up on first base.”
We’d heard Darling wonder such dozens of times after such displays, no good answers to follow except the incomplete bromide, “The game has changed.”
Changed to become what?
You heard Jeff Francoeur all the way from Los Angeles, where he would work the other National League Division Series game later that evening for TBS? That’s some pretty good hearing you have there.
That’s mean, but Mushnick is a hack so why show him any respect? The rest of the word salad Mushnick gives us is definitely, um, something. The analysts, which again didn’t include Francoeur, were not left with what to do with baseball. They, in fact, consistently spoke of the failure of Acuña, in that situation, to get to second base. Play-by-play man, Brian Anderson, even added on, referring to the double play liner off the bat of Josh Donaldson which led to Acuña being doubled off as the second baserunning blunder in the inning. They were wrong. It was bad luck.
This “style” of Major League Baseball has been going on for the past 20 years and attached to ESPN “Top 10” highlights, yet instead of dying an instant death as a matter of practicality — as a matter of winning games at the highest, most expensive, and ostensibly best-prepared level — it has proliferated.
And GMs, managers and even media have excused, indulged or ignored it.
You used ostensibly incorrectly, Phil.
Nobody excused a player not running hard on a liner that very much was in doubt of going out. You even mentioned that “even his teammates and manager were unable to dismiss it as anything other than inexcusable.” Feel free to not ruin your own argument.
Even more, your timeline is wrong. Baseball has definitely changed – and for the better – but it started long before the last two decades. Remember Ozzie Smith? How he played with such amazing grace and did those cool somersaults that helped to bring personality to the game? Or how Bo Jackson did those “Bo Knows” commercials? Deion Sanders going 8-for-15 in the World Series? Ken Griffey Jr. bashing homers with his hat on backward? Baseball being “saved” by a home-run chase to break the record of Roger Maris?
These guys had style. They had personalities. They made baseball fun to watch. And we still found time to love Mariano Rivera, who has the personality of a pet rock. We didn’t forget about the players who just “did their job” rather than doing it with a little flash. We simply learned that players being relatable and fun was a good thing – especially when they were ridiculously talented. Baseball is better because of it. Bat flips are fun. Pitchers celebrating after a big strikeout gives the game an edge. ENJOYING A CHILD’S GAME IS A GOOD THING.
Ronnie should have busted his ass out of the box.
But him not doing so doesn’t say one damn thing about how baseball is worse now than it was two decades ago. It just says you got old and think everybody and everything should have got old with you.
Let’s finish this up.
It’s crazy. Screen doors on a submarine, the prison pole-vaulting team.
Senseless, self-smitten acts such as Acuna’s were recently seen throughout an MLB campaign to attract kids who once didn’t need to be attracted to baseball for such “fun.”
And those immodest scenes and messages — bat-flipping, self-adulation, home plate posing — were fully approved by Commissioner Manfred, as if our sports needed another bad-is-good, pandering steward.
You’re damn right they were. And it got fans excited. It wasn’t, “bad,” you blind fool. You didn’t need quotes around the word fun because this is fun. Watching Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Pete Alonso go head-to-head in the Homerun Derby was fun. Watching these young stars who are more athletic, dynamic, and simply better than the players that came before them do things with regularity that before seemed so difficult to do is a good thing.
Feel free to enjoy it instead of being, well, you. It’s pretty incredible.
In the ninth Thursday, Acuna hit a too-late, two-run homer to center. He stood posing at the plate, watching it before slowly, grandly, jogging the bases as if he’d just won the game.
He hit a massive home run and fired up his team to try to make a comeback after watching his team’s bullpen just give up six runs in 1.2 innings. He gave the Braves a chance to comeback in a game in which he already had two hits and a walk. And it damn near worked.
I’ll make you a deal. You build your team of 25 boring-ass guys. I’ll even give you the personality-lacking Trout. I’ll build a team of Acuñas and Puigs and Didis and Bryces and Mannys and Amirs and Scherzers. And I’ll beat your ass and we’ll have fun while doing it.