Because the Orioles haven’t been in the limelight over the last couple years, I regretfully admit that I haven’t been keeping a close eye on Manny Machado. The numbers on Baseball-Reference I’ve paid attention to, sure, but I haven’t been keeping up with anything about the overall vibe of the Manny Machado experience. How’s he been gettin’ along? What’s the scuttlebutt these days?
It used to be a thing, you know. Machado intentionally threw his bat at an opponent in 2014, and that was certainly different. Then there was last year, when he suggested that he reserved the right to use his bat as a potential weapon after getting plunked several times in the same week. Even in Game 3, there were two video reviews that had to do with Machado sliding hard into second, with the second one resulting in an out at first. On slow-motion replay, six or 17 times, you could see it clearly: Machado stuck out his arm to interfere with Orlando Arcia, who was attempting to turn a double play.
Machado sticking his arm out was a supremely dumb decision, of course. Arcia had already released the ball long before Machado slid. But he took his shot. For whatever reason.
That comes up now because Machado clearly dragged his foot in order to make contact with Jesus Aguílar in Game 4.
Clear as day.
Our guy went inside the baseline to do this. And I really don’t know if he thinks he did anything wrong. There were neurons clicking and they told him to “kick that dude in the ankle,” and hell if he knows what happened after that.
It’s possible there’s a pattern.
Let’s see if any of the Brewers have an opinion.
Christian Yelich on Manny Machado: "He’s a player that has a history of those types of incidents. One time is an accident. Repeating it over and over and over again, you’re just a dirty play. It’s a dirty play by a dirty player."— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) October 17, 2018
None of these players are reading my dumb words about Machado. They don’t need to. They know. They talk. My goodness, they spend so much time together. Every active baseball has had a three-hour conversation on if Mario and Peach are boyfriend/girlfriend. Every single one. Of course they’ve talked about which players are dirty. Those flights are long. Machado’s name comes up an awful lot.
After Yelich finished answering questions about Machado, he walked away from his locker and blurted out: “F - - k that mother- - - - er.”— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) October 17, 2018
And they’re not happy! They know that Machado is the kind of player who throws his bat at people, who threatens to use his bat against others, who swipes at a shortstop just because he can. They know that Machado will kick the ankle of one of the most likable, gregarious players in the league because he wants to ... hurt him? Disrupt the play? Look, your guess is just as good as mine, but there’s no way that you can watch that replay and think Machado’s inner monologue is telling him, “Look out! Someone else’s foot! Avoid!”
If you think the Brewers’ players are too biased, here’s a better arbiter:
The text I just got from my mom after Machado clipped Aguilar... pic.twitter.com/7fHG8hV0Z9— Zach Pellowski (@TheBigPellowski) October 17, 2018
She’s not wrong? My guess is this was more like Alex Rodriguez slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hand than it was a brazen attempt to injure an opponent. This was Machado looking for an angle. It was just an incredibly obvious and dumb attempt to gain the slightest of advantages. There was risk and there was reward, and none of it made sense.
It’s possible there’s a pattern. Manny Machado just might be a dingus.
This is all before you get to the old-crotchety-dude complaint that Machado isn’t hustling up the line. As someone who grew up watching Barry Bonds, I am completely familiar with the idea of a player making the minimum effort on ground balls. But even I’m mesmerized by Machado’s absolute commitment to not running hard. Bonds had an excuse — he was over 30, and his knees hurt — but Machado is either concerned about the wear and tear at an earlier age, or he’s just not into it.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell wasn’t impressed.
Q. Two things: How did you see the play with Machado at first base? And given that, combined with the slides, do you think he’s going to beyond the grounds of playing hard?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I don’t know. I guess they got tangled up at first base. I don’t think he’s playing all that hard.
Former guy-who-rode-his-beach-cruiser-bike-out-of-a-clubhouse right past the GM Eric Byrnes wasn’t impressed. He had a meme to share (and quickly delete).
So what you have is a guy who doesn’t consistently hustle — literally the one thing our sorry, talentless asses think we can do, even if we also can’t field 70 percent of the soft grounders hit directly at us. Machado also seems to appreciate the finer arts of being a jerk, like throwing a bat, swiping at a shortstop, or going out of his way to step on someone’s livelihood. We can get mad about the hustle because that’s the only thing we could honestly fix ourselves if we wanted. Heck, I’m a tired hack, but I hustle to put up my Christmas lights every year. I’m like a spider monkey, you should see it.
Bundle it all together, and you know what you have? A heel. Manny Machado is a wrestling heel. It’s been so long since he’s been in the spotlight, we’ve forgotten this. He likes to push buttons, and, bless him, I don’t think he means to. He just forges ahead, a guy whose head is filled with baseball, baseball, baseball. Someone who sure keeps screwing up in a highly visible matter.
The current consensus around baseball is that Machado is a dingus, and we’re in a rare spot for this. Orioles fans, who would have been his loudest supporters, are quite clear that he’s a little off. He’s not on the team anymore, so they can be honest.
Dodgers fans don’t really know the guy. Their affection for him isn’t baked in the same way that it was with Orioles fans. It’s not like they’re going to go to the mat for Manny Machado. Get out of here.
So Machado is in international waters, here. He doesn’t have a vocal mob of hooligans ready to support his every transgression. He’s just doing stuff, and everyone around him is aware that he’s doing stuff, and it turns out the stuff isn’t that great. He’s not hustling, and he’s clearly making more on-field contact than the average baseball player. Machado is in a unique position.
How will this affect the NLCS? No idea. But what I do know is that Machado is a perfect heel for this 2018 MLB Postseason. He’s someone who can unite the players and fans and managers, who are all skeptical-to-disgusted with him. He’s also someone who can bat-whip a ball 480 feet over the left-center bleachers, and he’s ice-watery enough to do it when it counts, too. That’s a fantastic combination for our viewing purposes.
Do you want Machado on your favorite team? Of course you do. Don’t even pretend to be cute about this. He would make your favorite team so much better. At the same time, he might be even better as a wrestling heel, someone who absorbs a lot of deserved criticism.
At the very least, he’s fun to argue and complain about. Welcome to the perfect heel of the 2018 MLB postseason. We don’t deserve someone this entertaining, but Manny Machado finds a way. Bless him. He’s awfully fun to watch, and every so often, he’ll score the winning run or remind you why everybody puts up with him in the first place. That’s all we’ve ever wanted.