For the good of baseball, teams should be careful about what they offer Manny Machado in free agency.
Machado will get paid but if he receives a mega-contract that makes him the highest paid player in the game (whether it’s the total of the contract or the best on average per season) they’ll be rewarding a player who admits he doesn’t hustle, has rubbed opponents and teammates the wrong way, and is lacking in leadership skills. It would also send a bad message to a sport that’s been taking some criticism for transitioning away from fundamental aspects of their game.
Don’t hustle but you’ll get paid big money because you’re a talented player who will put up numbers, except those numbers won’t show up in the team’s “W” column.
During this post season, impending free agent Machado has revealed his true “baseball” self.
There were always whispers that Machado had an attitude problem and acted like a “diva.” Remember, before the season began, Machado demanded that the Orioles move him from third base to shortstop. There’s been a history of dirty play, selfish acts and a noticeable lack of effort.
There was an incident in 2014 when Machado threw his bat at A’s pitcher Fernando Abad, who had thrown an inside pitch that almost hit him. Machado’s hard slides into second base have caused a stir, including early in the 2017 season when he went into second against the Red Sox and injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The Red Sox felt Machado slid with his spikes up when he clipped Pedroia’s leg. He apologized but, two days later, Boston pitcher Matt Barnes threw a pitch in the direction of Machado’s head. Pedroia had to refute the idea that he “encouraged” the payback but the “scrap” only added to Machado’s reputation.
The latest episode of dirty play took place during games 3 and 4 of the NLCS.
Machado slid hard into second base twice during game three, Monday night. The second occurrence invoked the “Utley Rule” (the rule was created as a result of Chase Utley’s hard slide into Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada that resulted in a broken leg during the 2015 NLDS) and led to a double play being called.
In the 10th inning of game four, Machado hit a routine ground ball to short and was thrown out but as he crosses first base, it appears he deliberately clips the back foot of Brewers first-baseman Jesus Aguilar, who took offense to it. Both players got in each other’s face and both benches emptied but the emotions quickly faded and nothing else came of it.
After Machado singled in the 13th, it appeared he and Aguilar were trying to make amends, although if you saw the Brewers’first-baseman’s face, he was not in a forgiving mood. Machado went on to score the winning run on Cody Bellinger’s RBI single but the earlier incident was not lost on the Brewers. “He [Machado] has a history of those types of incidents,” Christian Yelich said after the game. “It’s a dirty play by a dirty player.”
Machado didn’t help himself any when he revealed in a recent interview with “The Athletic” that “I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line.” There is a segment of the sport’s fan base that believes, as long as Machado meets or surpasses his yearly averages of .282, 31 home runs and 90 RBI’s, then it’s okay that he doesn’t “bust it” down the first base line. That is the wrong way to look at it.
What’s being ignored is the effect that Machado has on his teammates. Kevin Kernan, the outstanding baseball columnist of the NY Post, referred to Machado’s lack of hustle when he wrote, “That changes the team’s dynamics.” In most cases, it certainly can and certainly does change a baseball “team’s dynamics.”
If Machado continues to demonstrate a “‘tude” and a lack of regard for his team combined with a blase’ attitude towards his responsibility as a member of a team, will that rub off on his teammates? What if they all decided that there was no need to hustle on “routine” ground balls that in all likelihood, would be outs, but sometimes are not. That team would not win many games.
Some are comparing Machado to Robinson Cano, who didn’t exactly “bust it” many times during his tenure with the Yankees. Cano signed a huge free agent contract with the Mariners that created high expectations, but they haven’t won anything since he’s been there. It’s not all his fault but players that “bust it” all the time inspire others to be better. Maybe a little “leadership” from Cano would go a long way towards making Seattle a better team. With a big contract comes a big responsibility to be a leader and Machado will be facing that pressure, no matter what team he signs with.
I’m not begrudging Machado his money if he showed signs that he will live up to a big contract. So far, he has not. That is a notion that prospective employers must ponder.