In a few months, when snow blankets the nation’s heartland – not to mention New York, Philadelphia and Chicago – we will find out just how frosty MLB general managers and owners feel about Manny Machado.
With $300 to $400 million at stake on the free agency market, organizations with the dough and inclination will be doing their due diligence about the gifted, but somewhat controversial, star shortstop.
They know guys like Bryce Harper and Machado are going to want a lot of money over many years and will not likely compromise over the small details – like whether they are entitled to it or worth the financial risk. That is not their problem.
Whoever signs them – and they both will cash in – understands the financial commitment will be made in good faith and all fingers and toes will be crossed that things turn out right.
Sometimes they don’t, you know. How do you think the Los Angeles Angels feel about giving Josh Hamilton $114.3 million or how the Boston Red Sox felt about handing Pedro Sandoval $98 million?
Those horror stories are what makes the events surrounding Machado over the last few seasons so interesting.
There is no doubt Machado fits the demographic of a franchise player. He is young, powerful, defensively gifted, a lineup and box-office bonanza. But depending on who you ask, he can also be a bit lazy and somewhat of a punk.
And these are not just casual observations. This is not idle speculation. It’s right there on the video with Machado.
And how do other MLB players feel about him?
“[Expletive] that [expletive]!,” Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich yelled this week as he left a scrum of media in front of his locker
Yep, that about sums it up.
In the 10th inning of Game 4 of the NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, Machado incited the benches to clear when he appeared to kick at the foot of first baseman Jesus Aguilar while crossing the bag.
“He’s a player with that has a history of those types of incidents,” said Yelich, who added it was a “dirty play by a dirty player.”
Said Machado: “”I was trying to get over him and hit his foot. If that’s dirty, that’s dirty. I don’t know. Call it what you want.”
Apparently, MLB must have thought it crossed the line of civility because it fined Machado for the incident.
The Machado-Aguilar incident – Aguilar dismissed it by hugging Machado when he reached base in the 13th inning – served to escalate Milwaukee’s growing resentment with Machado.
In Game 3, he slid hard and reached his hand out in an effort to keep Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia from completing a double play. The umpires called Machado out for interference.
If these were the only incidents associated with Machado’s behavior you might be inclined to dismiss them as anomalies. But they are not.
In 2014, when Machado was with the Baltimore Orioles, he whipped his bat at the Oakland A’s infield after twice being pitched inside. In 2016, he slid hard into second base in a game against the Chicago White Sox which even his manager, Buck Showalter, categorized as over-aggressive.
And then last season, he ticked off the Red Sox by spiking Dustin Pedroia in the left knee on a slide during an April series. Former Red Sox manager John Farrell was so incensed that he complained to MLB.
Pedroia later absolved Machado of blame by saying, “I’m not mad at him. I love Manny Machado. I love playing against him. I love watching him.”
Still, within 10 days of the incident, both Matt Barnes and Chris Sale retaliated by throwing at Machado.
After Sale threw at his legs – Machado later responded by hitting a homer against him – he went on a famous rant that filled the Boston airwaves for days.
“I mean, if you’re going to [expletive] hit me, hit me,” said Machado. “Go ahead. [Expletive] hit me!”
More expletives followed.
Machado, like Harper, has also been frequently criticized for a lack of hustle on ground balls to first base.
Earlier this week on his radio show in New York, Michael Kay, the Yankees primary television play-by-play man, asked Yankees GM Brian Cashman about Machado.
It was a relevant question because the Yankees are rumored to be one of the teams interested in Machado, especially now that starting shortstop Didi Gregorious will miss most of the 2019 season after Tommy John surgery.
“If somebody is an otherworldly talent that doesn’t run hard to first base all the time, would that be somebody the Yankees would want to put in their clubhouse?” Kay asked.
“Boy, you’re really good at what you do,” said Cashman. “You’re trying to Jedi mind trick me into answering a question that would put me into the abyss at MLB.”
As like everything else in life, whether it’s buying stocks or a home or a used car, it will be a case of buyer beware. Machado may come at a steep price in more ways than one.