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Manny Machado’s one-man rivalry with the Red Sox, explained

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This’ll probably be a thing in the World Series.

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Machado is a straight-up baseball heel. The Milwaukee Brewers were introduced to this concept when he kicked first baseman Jesus Aguilar while running through the base in the NLCS, capping off a routine groundout. The Boston Red Sox, however, have been intimately familiar with his rampant dickishness (professional term) for at least a year now.

The Sox have had plenty of experience with Machado, who escaped the gravity of the rotting garbage planet that is the Orioles for the lush galaxy of the Dodgers infield in 2018. But while he was with Baltimore, he found plenty of opportunities to put himself in Boston’s crosshairs.

Literally.

As in, the Red Sox have a history of throwing a ton of baseballs at him. He even was a target for a handful of guys Machado will face starting Tuesday night in Boston.

Why don’t the Red Sox care for Manny Machado?

Machado faced the Sox 95 times between 2012 and 2018. The All-Star third baseman batted .277 and cranked 16 home runs for the Orioles against his AL East rival, giving Boston reason to dislike him. Familiarity breeds contempt, after all.

Also, jamming your cleats into second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s leg breeds contempt. That’s what happened in 2017.

Machado spiked Pedroia. Whether on purpose or just the product of wayward physics, the then-Oriole drove a cleat into an already-injured left knee, exacerbating an issue that may wind up ending the former MVP’s career. That led Boston to retaliate later that afternoon with a heaping helping of inside fastballs. The first set came from reliever Eduardo Rodriguez in Machado’s next at-bat. His final plate appearance of the day featured this attempted murder from reliever Matt Barnes:

Pedroia actually went out of his way to apologize to Machado for the throw behind his skull that gloomy April afternoon. Barnes, an active member of the team’s World Series roster who hasn’t forgotten about Machado’s slide, did not. Rodriguez, also a part of the Boston roster for the fall classic, hasn’t said anything either way.

In most instances, that would have been the end of it. This was not the case in Boston. The Orioles traveled to Fenway Park two weeks later for a four-game series that saw Machado blast a laser over the Green Monster in game one, then round the bases with all the urgency of an elderly person in a crosswalk as he admired his handiwork.

That’s when Boston decided it was not content with Machado’s 95-mile per hour haircut weeks earlier. Chris Sale, the Sox’ No. 1 starter, dialed up some inside heat in the ensuing game that, much like Alanis Morissette’s 1994 hit “You Oughta Know,” couldn’t reasonably be taken as anything other than a message of bitterness and disgust. And, much like “You Oughta Know,” it was a big hit across New England.

What did Machado do in response to Boston’s repeated attempts to explode his head?

Machado responded to the perceived threat of multiple 90+ mile per hour fastballs flying toward his face in much the same way George Bluth would react to hearing his secretary/paramour had been fired:

If you clean it up, it’s not really a sentence. Merely pointing out that it was possible he, a large man with a blunt object, could murder any number of starting pitchers wasn’t so much a threat as it was a statement of observation. This was actually pretty restrained for Machado. Past versions of the All-Star infielder would have whipped a bat down the third base line in retaliation.

The two sides got along without incident the rest of the year. Pedroia faced off against Machado and the Orioles five more times in 2017 in games that resulted in perfectly acceptable, if not exciting, baseball. It was the same in 2018. Boston was even allegedly a player in trade talks for the Baltimore third baseman before he was shipped to the west coast instead.

Sale, the man who belabored the point two weeks after the fact back in 2017, says he’s not worried about last year’s beef.

“Not at all,” Sale told the press when asked if he’s focusing on last year’s feud. “We have bigger things to worry about now on both sides, on their side and on our side. We’re dedicated to winning this World Series and bringing a championship to our city. We’re not worried about any individual player. We’ve got one thing in mind and that’s winning.”

But if the NLCS, where Machado kicked Aguilar and later motioned to the Milwaukee crowd to do things to his groin-ish area, is any indication, this year’s World Series will also feature some extracurriculars between one of America’s saltiest franchises and baseball’s new villain.

World Series damage

Machado didn’t delay in further annoying the Red Sox in World Series Game 1, even if he didn’t quite go full heel at Fenway just yet. After turning an astonishingly good double play (which would eventually be changed to just an out at second but doesn’t take away from what he did to even make it close) Machado drove in a tying run in the fifth inning, silencing the Fenway crowd. He also almost beheaded Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes while doing it, but that doesn’t seem like it was on purpose.

He didn’t do much for a few games, but in the waning minutes of Game 4 with the Dodgers down 9-6 Machado couldn’t leg out a single to first and was thrown out. On his way through the base, he may or may not have purposely angled his foot to step on the heel of Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce. Manny might not be going Full Heel in the World Series but he’s still doing little things to cause trouble. Like he has to get it out of his system or he’ll burst.