by Alex Poletti
With the lights shining the brightest on the young star’s already-bright career, Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. rubbed some teammates the wrong way by opting to eat a sandwich instead of hustling down the baseline on a ball hit deep to right field in the seventh inning of the NLDS game one against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Many speculate that if he hadn’t sat down and enjoyed his foot-long sub, he would have easily gotten into second base for a double instead of settling for a well-struck single.
“It’s the playoffs,” starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel says, “If you’re not giving everything you have, you’re not only selling yourself short, but you’re selling the team short. Not to mention, he didn’t even offer to share.”
Despite his lack of hustle, Acuna’s talent was on full display against the Cards, including a long home run that narrowed the lead to one and a stellar catch to rob Kolten Wong of a hit. Of course, Acuna’s game was not defined by those plays. Rather, game one for him will forever be tainted by the image of Acuna chowing down on a hoagie halfway between home plate and first base. Balancing awe-inspiring ability with questionable attitude has been one of the challenges of coaching and playing with athletes of the new generation.
“This guy is a generational player” veteran catcher Brian McCann says. “But he’s a young guy. He’s going to make mistakes. You’ve got to give these young guys some leeway. Maybe he can admire his hit, he can even snack on a bag of chips, but a full-length sandwich is just too much.”
Acuna has drawn comparisons to Manny Machado, who last year with the Dodgers was lambasted for jogging to first in a World Series game. Many wondered how that would affect his free agent negotiations, which only resulted in him getting $300 million, or roughly 30 million foot-long sandwiches.
While teammates have taken a harder approach when criticizing Acuna, manager Brian Snitker has been more laid back.
“The thing is, we need Ronald in our lineup right now,” the Manager of the Year candidate says. “I honestly don’t mind that he was eating a sandwich. I’m more concerned about where he stored that thing during the at-bat.”