Pretty much the entire baseball world (except for Keith Hernandez) united against Marlins pitcher Jose Ureña after he knocked red-hot Braves starlet Ronald Acuña out of the game with a first-pitch heater to the elbow. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman called Ureña “gutless.” Even his own manager wouldn’t come to his defense. This is all understandable, because the pitch looked about as malicious as a beanball can possibly be, but after the game, Ureña insisted that he didn’t hit Acuña on purpose.
Ureña stood in front of his locker and defiantly addressed reporters, telling them he didn’t think it was right that he will likely receive a five-game suspension for making one bad pitch, and insisting that all he was trying to do was throw the ball inside:
A few times, Ureña mentions that he was trying to “move the feet,” as in he was trying to buzz Acuña inside to intimidate him and get him to back off the plate. This is where Ureña’s defense seems to fall apart. Even if we accept that Ureña wasn’t trying to drill Acuña on purpose, he made it pretty clear that there was plenty of ill intent behind the pitch. He wasn’t trying to use the baseball as a weapon, just brandish it as one, so as to rattle Acuña’s confidence.
Here’s the thing: Jose Ureña isn’t a good enough pitcher to pull some shit like that. If you’re a pitcher with absolute command over your fastball, fine, go ahead and buzz a guy. But if you’re Jose Ureña, a guy with a 4.72 career ERA, who led the league with 14 hit batters last season, and who has already hit 11 batters this season, you don’t get to pitch so recklessly without dealing with the consequences.
Baseball is a dangerous sport, and a 97-mph fastball is one of the most potentially injurious weapons an athlete possesses. If Ureña’s simply not good enough to wield a weapon like that in a way that doesn’t put the careers of guys like Ronald Acuña at risk, then he deserves whatever punishment MLB doles out, no matter how much malice was or wasn’t behind the pitch.