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MLB needs to start taking a strong stand on intentionally hit batters

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The Jose Ureña/Ronald Acuña Jr. kerfuffle should never have happened.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ronald Acuna Jr. is one of the best players in baseball, and he is just a 20-year-old rookie, very possibly this year’s National League Rookie of the Year.

And in the first three games of a four-game series against the Marlins, Acuña just couldn’t stop hitting. He went 8-for-13 with a double and four home runs, and he led off each of the three games with a home run.

When he stepped into the batter’s box at SunTrust Park Wednesday evening to face Jose Urena of the Marlins, Urena did not greet him kindly [VIDEO].

That was Ureña’s first pitch of the game. Acuña tried to stay in the game, but eventually had to leave. Fortunately, he does not appear to be seriously injured:

I’m just going to say it here and now: This kind of retaliation is utter nonsense. I don’t care if “back in the day” Don Drysdale or Bob Gibson used to do it, it was wrong then and it’s wrong now. You don’t jeopardize someone’s livelihood just because he’s been a great hitter against your team. Period, end of story. If the Marlins don’t want Acuña hitting home runs like that, make better pitches and get him out.

These reactions from across baseball are telling:

Chipper Jones is right. Keith Hernandez is way off base. From another major leaguer, and someone who’s often thoughtful and incisive:

And if you had any doubt that the pitch was intentional:

Major League Baseball has to make a strong statement after this incident, I think. Yes, I know suspensions are appealable, but in this case I believe MLB should suspend Ureña for the rest of the 2018 season and levy a heavy fine, perhaps the equivalent of the games he’d miss, about a quarter of the season. And the Players Association ought to advise Ureña not to appeal this suspension, because if they did — well, then they’d be in the business of approving this sort of behavior, which affected another member of the association.

I might remind you that this is not out of character for Ureña, who led MLB in HBP last year and is leading the N.L. this year. On Opening Day in Miami, he hit two Cubs (Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber), and then there’s this:

And if you think my suggestion for punishment is harsh, Ely Sussman of our SB Nation Marlins site Fish Stripes says the Marlins should just dump Urena:

Ureña is tied for the major league lead with 25 hit batsmen over the past two seasons combined. The majority of those were honest cases of missed location, but after the Acuña HBP, it doesn’t matter: he’s done enough damage to earn this reputation.

Poor fastball command isn’t an excuse, anyway. There can be serious consequences for the innocent batter, like in April when another up-and-in heater fractured the finger of Pirates infielder Josh Harrison. Even when unintentional, Ureña makes his teammates targets of retribution.

As a repeat offender, Ureña has left Major League Baseball no choice but to issue a significant suspension. Regardless of their ruling, the Marlins can take a strong stand by placing the 26-year-old on waivers this month for another team to claim.

Or what if things like this happened in real life, asks Ashley MacLennan?

For starters, as soon as my co-worker who is better at her job than I am comes through the office door, I’m going to throw a stapler at her.

Hear me out, because baseball tells me this is okay. You see, she has demonstrated that through hard work and a natural aptitude for her position that she is the superior employee. But I don’t want that going to her head, she needs to know that I see her being good and I don’t care. As long as I hit her in the legs or back, this is totally okay.

You see the point here, I trust.

Whatever happens with Ureña and his current team, it’s clear that MLB has to step up and stop these kinds of things from happening again, before someone’s career ends as a result, or worse. It’s 2018. I’ll repeat: If the Marlins didn’t want Acuña to hit another home run, make better pitches and get him out.

Because it’s enough of this kind of childish nonsense.