Remember last year, despite making the All-Star team following a devastating injury, people were clamoring that Ronald Acuña Jr was overrated? Yeah, that was a thing that happened. People can act like it wasn’t, but it was. Those people have been dead silent this year. Ronald Acuna Jr. is having one of the greatest seasons in the storied history of the Atlanta Braves. Actually, he’s having one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. What’s insane is that he might not even win MVP, but last night, he did something that no baseball player has ever done before. He hit his 30th home run to become the first 30 home runs, 60 stolen base player in Major League history.
The Braves just know what they're doing. They develop top-tier talent better than almost anybody. Alex Anthopoulos is arguably the best GM in the entire sport. I remember when Ronald Acuña Jr. got called up. He was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle. We sometimes overlook how ridiculous expectations are for certain players. Even some of the best players have to deal with growing pains. Barry Bonds struggled his first hundred games or so at the big league level. Ronald Acuña Jr. was one of those rare guys that hit right away. There was no learning curve. There were no growing pains. He got called up in 2018, and the franchise's trajectory changed overnight. Ronald Acuña Jr. has been in the big leagues since 2018. The Braves have won the division every year he's been on the roster. He is the definition of a franchise player.
￼The Braves are talented enough to stand on their own, but the new rules have benefited them as much as any team in baseball. They have pitchers that strike out hitters, and they have hitters with a lot of athleticism and a lot of speed. Acuña is obviously at the forefront of that. It's why you can never say never when it comes to records in Major League Baseball. The game is forever evolving and changing. If you had told me five years ago that there was going to be a Major League Baseball player with 60 stolen bases, I would've scoffed at that notion. The new rules have led to more action, and no one knows action quite like Ronald Acuña, Jr.
As I alluded to earlier, the MVP race in the National League is a historic one. You have Mookie Betts, who's already won the MVP as a member of the American League when he played for the Boston Red Sox, and you have Ronald Acuña Jr, the best player on the best team in Major League Baseball. And Acuna had a moment last night. It's like those guys with Heisman moments during college football. Last night, the Braves had the biggest series of the year against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Acuna delivered a grand slam. Making history is fine, but history with an exclamation point makes it that much cooler.
The fact that either Mookie Betts or Ronald Acuña Jr. won't come away from this season with an MVP award is a tough pill to swallow. Both of these guys are having historically good campaigns. Choosing between the two of them is a real Sophie's choice. You can't go wrong either way, but it's safe to say that Acuna probably has something of a leg up because for a game that's been played forever, to be able to boast that you've done something that no other player has ever done puts you in an elite place.