The Braves have taken a firm stance in the Marcell Ozuna-Will Smith beef, and to no surprise, they’re defending their own.
In the fourth inning, Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna’s backswing hit Dodgers catcher Will Smith in the side of the helmet, which instigated a heated argument about who was at fault.
Ozuna claimed it was an accident. Smith told him to “clean it up” since Ozuna has done it plenty of times before. Does Ozuna just have an abnormally long backswing, or is Smith onto something?
According to the Braves organization, Ozuna has nothing to apologize for.
Braves manager Brian Snitker told The Athletic’s David O’Brien:
"“Sal [Braves’ catching coach] is always moving our guys back. You see a few guys who have that long backswing. They don’t want to hit the catcher; they’re not trying to do that. Like I said, we move our guys back some on a particular hitter. Not many of them, but there are guys that are like that. Rather than get hit, we just move them back.”"
Braves side with Marcell Ozuna, point the finger at Will Smith
Sal Fasano, the Braves’ catching coach, apparently tells his catchers to move back accordingly if they know a certain hitter has a big backswing.
The Braves’ hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer, also said Smith was too close to Ozuna during that fourth-inning at-bat and needed to back up, which Smith did for the rest of the game after the incident.
Seitzer called the whole kerfuffle “an accident” and believed Ozuna was just “doing this thing… that’s just the way he finishes.”
It comes as no surprise that Braves coaches are siding with their hitter and placing the blame on the Dodgers catcher. But it’s possible both parties were at fault here: Smith could have backed up even just a few more inches, and Ozuna could have been more careful with his backswing to avoid hurting the catacher.
The Ozuna-Smith beef doesn’t feel completely squashed, and some residual feelings could crop up again in the next two games. Fans will be watching the series unfold at an appropriate distance — the same can’t be said for Smith when Ozuna steps onto the plate.