I will write a lot more than this, because engaging in logorrhea over Ronald Acuña’s accomplishments is one of the purest pleasures of the internet, but I could basically just leave this profile at one sentence:
Ronald Acuña finally lived up to his promise and spent about half the season as the best player in the National League, then he got hurt.
Acuña put up 4.2 WAR in 82 games. That put him right near the other three team leaders, Freeman with 4.5 in 159 games, and Riley and Albies with 4.2 in 160 and 156 games, respectively. He was 16th in the league in WAR despite playing half a season and failing to qualify for the batting title. He was awesome.
And then he got hurt, and the guys we brought in to replace him won us the World Series. It wasn’t exactly the Ewing Theory, and it wasn’t exactly even bittersweet — we won the damn World Series! — but it was just a tiny bit strange, especially because he really did seem to be the whole entire point of the rebuild, at least as much as any notional championship. And then we won without him.
It basically comes to this: if Ronald Acuna comes to the major leagues and lives up to the hype, I’ll follow every minute of it. But if he doesn’t, and the rebuild falls apart, and the Braves are mired in another half-decade of mediocrity, I’m going to have a lot of trouble finding time to watch baseball.
After selling off nearly everyone other than Freeman and Teheran, we had a boatload of prospects and a truly dreadful major league team. And after a few years of watching that dreck, it became utterly clear: no matter what happened with all of the other prospects, for our team to have any hopes whatsoever of being any fun again, it would be entirely up to a teenager named Ronald Acuña, Jr.
Ronald was a month from his 20th birthday at the time, and he had just been named Minor League Player of the Year, so he was not exactly an unknown by then. But it’s not possible to overstate how much we needed him.
He signed as a 16-year-old in 2013 for just $100,000, which tells you that he had nowhere near the kind of prospect hype of blockbuster signings like Julio Teheran and Kevin Maitan.
But pretty quickly, whispers of his potential began to spread.
Less than three years after that tweet, he was in the majors for good and he’s really never been less than great. He turned 24 a month ago, and he’s already got 105 homers and 15.8 Wins Above Replacement.
If you wanted to nitpick, you could say that his defense is more adequate than spectacular, but you would would be nitpicking a six- to eight-win player and asking why he is not a ten-win player, and you would want to take a long look at yourself in the mirror, and maybe go take the dog for a walk and think about not writing any more blog comments for a while.
Personally, I think Braves fans deserve a modicum of congratulations for generally not doing that, because that’s exactly what a lot of us did to Andruw Jones, a six- to eight-win player whose OBP kept him from being a ten-win player, and prevented him from being Willie Mays, which was how he was hyped as he tore through the minors. Things are terrible on the internet in very many ways, but in this one respect, I think we’ve gotten better.
Ronald’s limitless potential and extraordinary track record leave me giddy with anticipation and just mildly overwhelmed with dread. “We just won the World Series and got our best player back from injury! What could go wrong?”
But here’s the thing: the oldest continually-operating franchise in Major League Baseball is also the newest World Series winner, and Ronald Acuna’s 24 years old, and he’s on my team.
There’s no predicting what the future may hold, but I wouldn’t want to change a single thing about the past or the present.
We already won the last game we played. Let’s win the next one!