clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Manny Machado isn’t on the Orioles anymore, and that’s incredibly depressing

New, comments

Welcome to hell, Orioles. We saved your room for you.

89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It seems important to remember that the Orioles have had Manny Machado all season. They’re currently 28-69. With their superstar infielder having the best offensive season of his career, the Orioles are in the middle of one of the worst seasons in franchise history. One of the worst seasons in any franchise’s history. And now they’ll be replacing the starting shortstop in the All-Star Game with whatever spare parts they have laying around.

These probably won’t be good spare parts. Just a hunch.

There’s no point in evaluating the trade from the Dodgers’ perspective. They lost their slugging shortstop for the year, so they rented a new one. Machado might help them win the division, like Manny Ramirez in 2008, or he might help them come up short, like Hanley Ramirez in 2012. He might help them win the World Series, like John Tudor. He might not help them win the World Series, like every deadline acquisition since John Tudor. I’m writing this before I know who the prospects are, but, whatever, it’s a great freaking deal for the Dodgers. They’re better.

The Orioles are in baseball hell. They were in the ALCS seemingly just a couple of weeks ago, when Machado was young and under team control for years and years and years. I’m not sure where the disconnect happened — if it was ever possible to sign Machado to an Evan Longoria-like deal when he was a teenager, or even if he would have agreed to a lucrative-but-not-debilitating contract two or three years ago. He might have had his eye on this coming winter since his first All-Star Game in 2013, and nothing was going to change his mind.

There’s nothing to be gained by finger pointing. The Orioles had Machado, a generational talent, and now they have magic beans that have a chance to grow into beanstalks. There isn’t a huge database of deals centered around superstars in their early or mid-20s because these are the kinds of players teams like to keep.

There is one recent trade that might work as a possible comparison, and that’s Miguel Cabrera going from the Marlins to the Tigers. A look back at the trade rumors from back then was illuminating and hilarious:

It sounds like the Yankees will trade Melky Cabrera, but are very reluctant to trade Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, or Ian Kennedy.

The Orioles might get the next Joba Chamberlain. Maybe the next Ian Kennedy. If they dream big, they might the next Melky Cabrera.

But according to Ken Rosenthal, the Dodgers now have the lead (for Miguel Cabera). It may require Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, and Clayton Kershaw.

Or the Orioles could forget about Machado almost instantly because they’re concussed from all of the awards falling from the sky. It’s possible, after all. Anything is possible with prospects.

From the outside looking in, though, with a brain that tends to think about the fan experience before the GM experience, I know that the Orioles have lost something substantial. What I can’t stop thinking about is this lede from Moss Klein in a Sporting News article from May, 1988:

The Baltimore Orioles may be willing to trade Cal Ripken. As irrational as that might initially sound, it would probably be a wise move.

If you think that’s heresy, you’re underrating Manny Machado. This could all work out for the Orioles, just like it worked out when the Mariners lost Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson within a few years of each other. Klein’s logic wasn’t wrong. He described a possible deal as a “shortcut to respectability,” which is exactly how the current Orioles are looking at this trade.

What the Orioles had before this trade was a wondrous talent, someone who made baseball worth watching even in the very worst years. Even in the years when they had a .289 winning percentage, like they do now. He was a name that looked great on the back of a jersey and someone who made the jobs easier for the marketing and promotions folks. A ballpark giveaway? Uh, yeah, sure, how about a Manny Machado ... golf umbrella? Yes, yes, a golf umbrella in the shape of Machado’s head. That’s 30,000 tickets sold and something that will keep you dry.

What the Orioles have now is a void that they’ll attempt to fill with all sorts of replacement Machados. Maybe it’s one of the guys who came over from the Dodgers, or maybe it’s the draft pick they’ll have earned with their unfathomably miserable play this year. They’ll get these prospects, give them a little sunlight, a little water, and watch them grow.

The odds are overwhelmingly, astronomically against anyone being as good as Machado. That goes for any prospects in the organization now, and it goes for any prospects in the organization in the next five years. Them’s just the odds. That’s how good Machado has been, and that’s how rare for a player to accomplish what he’s accomplished before turning 25.

Machado was an idea once. He was the reward for losing 98 games in 2009, and Orioles fans got to sit and stare at the Baseball America scouting reports and think, “What if?” Then he was a prospect, a top prospect, and the Orioles could think “What if?”, but a little more confidently, with more details filled in. Then he was a teenager outplaying most of the veterans, and then he was an All-Star on a team that was four wins from the World Series. The “What if?” became a cry of jubilation that translated to “We get to watch this guy. We get to watch this guy.”

Now they’re back to prospects and “What if?” They had no choice. Convincing Machado to stick around just in case would have been tough. Losing him for a compensatory draft pick would have been tough. They had to trade him. They probably should have traded him years ago if they couldn’t extend him, with the benefit of hindsight.

But Manny Machado was on the Orioles, and now he’s not. In his place, at the bottom of the hill, is a whole mess of uncertainly and the realistic scenario that they’ll have to wait years for a player who was even close to this valuable or fun. It could happen.

It’s just a damned shame that this couldn’t keep happening, though. Sports are just the worst.

The passage of time is just the worst.