In the end, it wasn’t really that close. In fact, it was essentially a runaway victory for the first Braves honoree since 2011.
It was a contest pitting 2 outfielders together: both from the same division, both born within a year of one another, both the result of International scouting.
The early hype came from the fact that the younger – Juan Soto – actually seemed to be carrying his Washington Nationals for a while… which was frankly amazing, given the offensive firepower that was supposed to be present on that club.
Yet as Soto and his club faded down the stretch, Acuña and the Braves steadily gained… and thus here were the final numbers (courtesy of Baseball-reference.com):
- bWAR: ACUNA 4.1; SOTO 3.0
- AB: ACUNA 433; SOTO 414
- AVG: ACUNA .293; SOTO .292
- HR: ACUNA 26; SOTO 22
- RBI: ACUNA 64; SOTO 70
- STEALS: ACUNA 16; SOTO 5
- OPS: ACUNA .917; SOTO .923
They were close… but the voting tally was not:
- ACUNA: 144 POINTS (27 1ST/3 2ND)
- SOTO: 89 POINTS (2/26/1 3RD)
- BUEHLER: 28 POINTS (1/1/20)
- Brian Anderson, Jack Flaherty, Harrison Bader, Yoshihisa Hirano, Jeff McNeil also received votes.
Acuña was the only player named on every ballot… which admittedly is a bit bizarre: Soto clearly did not deserve anything lower than a 3rd place consideration, yet 1 writer (among 30) chose to skip him.
That writer was Mikako Niwa, representing the Japanese Sankei Sports out of Los Angeles. He gave Walker Buehler his lone first place vote while placing Acuña 2nd and the 34-year-old relief pitcher Hirano in 3rd place.
The other writers denying Acuña of a unanimous victory were Todd Dybas (The Sports Capitol – Washington) and Jesse Rogers of ESPN.
But before him, you have to go all the way back to 1990 and David Justice to find a Brave getting the ROY award, and 1978 before that (Bob Horner). Earl Williams got the nod in 1971 as the other Braves winning the trophy while in Atlanta.
There have been a few ‘near misses’ in recent years along the way:
- Jeff Francoeur, 3rd (2005)
- Jason Heyward, 2nd (2010)
- Freddie Freeman, 2nd (2011… 2nd to Kimbrel)
- Tommy Hanson, 3rd (2009)
- …and of course: Chipper Jones, 2nd (1995)
So congratulations to Ronald Acuña Jr – the latest Brave to collect this award. Since he’s in Japan right now, we’d be happy to accept on his behalf… is that possible?
The Big Lie
Can I change gears completely for a moment? I just need to go on a rant for a bit.
‘The Big Lie’ refers to the notion that if you tell a lie long enough – and perhaps loudly enough – that people will begin to believe it and act accordingly.
I have to think that this is what’s happening with The Bryce Harper Free Agency Show… A.K.A. ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ as not-so-originally coined by agent Scott Boras.
I’m not blaming Harper for The Lie… I’m blaming his agent. But now he’s got places like MLB Trade Rumors predicting a monstrous $420 million contract. They aren’t the only ones, either.
Sure – it only takes 1 team to fall for the trap. But should they?
Over his 7-year MLB career, Harper has played 927 games, hit .279, OPS’d .900 and produced 30.7 fWAR. He has hit 184 homers and rates 140 wRC+ (scaled/weighted runs created score).
Those are very good numbers… no doubt. Here are the players that baseball-reference compares him closely to:
Let’s take Martinez, since he’s a very recent example: he struggled to get a 5 year $110 million deal last winter. Okay, yes: he can’t play defense. But he also OPS’d 1.031 this season (at age 31).
Okay: Donaldson…he’s a tougher case since he’s just now a free agent for the first time. However, he set a record for arbitration with a $23 million deal. That won’t be repeated, but had he stayed healthy in 2018, his next deal could have been in the $30 million range… but certainly not for 10+ years, given his age.
Since 2012, there are 11 players with a fWAR value of 30.7+… led by Mike Trout at an eye-popping 64.0. Donaldson (despite a bad 2018) had 36.8.
Freddie Freeman posted 30.3 over that period… he’s paid well, but not $30 million or more.
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Maybe Harper will be worth all that to somebody… but the idea of a $400 million guaranteed contract is just crazy… it’s not just breaking a record, it would destroy it.
Honestly now: if Harper gets $30 million annually, does that mean Mike Trout is worth $60 million?
I don’t begrudge the best baseball athletes on the planet getting big paychecks: they should… as should anyone operating at the pinnacle of their industry.
My complaint here is more about scale… and that perhaps The Big Lie is that Harper will be that good – and better – than most every player in the sport for a period of 10 consecutive years or more.
The likelihood of this is… weak. But once the ink dries, somebody is going to have to live with the result.
Unfortunately… perhaps also for the Braves, re: their newly minted ROY… once new records are set, the rest of the league scales up to follow that precedent.