Ronald Acuna, by all accounts, is a tremendously talented baseball player who, a few years from now, could be the biggest star on the Atlanta Braves. He’s the No. 1 prospect in the game this year, according to Baseball America. He’s a 20-year-old outfielder who hit .325 with 21 homers and 82 RBIs across three levels of the minor leagues last year.
Before this week, you’d be hard-pressed to find something critical to say about Acuna.
Now it appears a controversy has been created about how Acuna wears his cap. Seriously. The fact that Acuna sometimes wears his cap cocked to the side is “stirring debate,” according to the headlines.
Ex-Braves star Andruw Jones has been working with Acuna this spring in big-league camp, which isn’t abnormal. Teams often pair their young-stars-to-be with either veterans or former stars. A story from MLB.com’s Mark Bowman includes this nugget about what the Braves “want” from Acuna:
The Braves want Acuna to wear his hat straight and maintain a professional appearance while in uniform. But they do not want to change much about the fun-loving, flamboyant approach that has made him one of the game’s most exciting young players.
“The main thing he needs to remember is keep your head straight and respect [your surroundings],” Jones said. “Be humble, but a humble-cocky.”
Wait? We’re still worried about crooked caps in 2018? Like, for serious? Are we going to get lectured next about how only drug dealers carry beepers … or is this the only tired trope from 1995 that we’re trotting out this baseball season?
So Acuna wears his cap crooked sometimes. It happens. With a lot of people. Quite often. Here some recent photos of the young Braves star. Anything seem like an immediate cause for concern?
Looks like any ol’ baseball player, huh? By reading the crooked-cap quote, you’d think Acuna were challening Fernando Rodney for crookedest cap in MLB. Instead, he looks … like a 20-year-old who happens to be really good at baseball.
There are two really good arguments for anybody who thinks a baseball player wearing his cap anything other than straight ahead actually matters and here they are in photo form:
Gosh, you remember when Ken Griffey Jr. made people clutch their pearls because of his backward cap? It’s a wonder that America’s Pastime survived this tumultuous time in history and Griffey was able to make it to the Hall of Fame after such a questionable cap-wearing decision.
Oh, hey, there’s good ol’ Tim Tebow, the inspirational and good-example setting Mets farmhand who is nowhere near as good as Acuna. He wears his hat crooked too?! He does. Quite frequently, actually. When’s the last time you heard about Tebow getting lectured about looking like a professional?
It’s a good question — one that is much more about perception than it is about baseball talent.
Let’s ignore the societal ramifications of that question for a second and think about this: Have we learned nothing from baseball’s past? Sucking the personality out of young players hasn’t worked. Baseball tradition pushes conformity on players, and while that might be good for sustaining the routine of a February-to-October season, it certainly hasn’t helped MLB grow the personalities of its stars.
If we had learned anything from Ken Griffey Jr. — arguably baseball’s last truly transcendent star — it should have been to let young players be themselves, especially the really good ones.
Don’t make Clint Frazier think his hair is a “distraction.” Don’t worry about bat decals and tweets and custom cleats and anything else that appeals to 20-something baseball players.
And definitely don’t act like the way Ronald Acuna wears his cap matters one iota to what sort of player he can be for the Braves.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
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