June 10, 2014

A Closer Look At Manny Machado's Weekend

By now, any avid baseball fan knows what happened this weekend in Baltimore. Manny Machado is making national headlines and it is not for his astounding play in the field or at the plate. It all started Friday night when Adam Jones bounced a ground ball to Josh Donaldson. Seems like a routine and harmless play right? Wrong. Donaldson slapped a tag on Machado as he attempted to dance out of the way to make it to third. Stumbling to the ground, Machado threw his helmet to ground and as he vaulted back on his feet he immediately got in Donaldson's grill causing both bullpens to clear. Why would he react this way? Was it the impact of the tag? No. I think it was the fact that Manny had fell to the ground in result and mostly due to his recent knee problems that set him back to begin the season. I don't mean to use the word slapped to convey an opinion on the play, I actually believe that the tag from Donaldson was not meant to inflict pain to Machado, rather to ensure he applied the tag to pick up an out. To my knowledge, I remain unaware to any previous rifts between the two third basemen and figured this would be the end of the conversation on this topic.

Before this weekend, Manny hasn't been one to show his negative emotions on the field and this was a new side of the player slated to be the future of the franchise. On Friday, I wrote that this outburst was a good thing for Machado. I had yet to see him play with a competitive edge and always went about his business smiling ear to ear.  Nothing wrong with that of course, but, I was happy to see some fire from the young star. Manny had struggled since his return to the lineup, which is expected due to his gruesome knee injury 7 months prior. I figured that this would fuel his future play and also ignite the Orioles.  In a way, I was correct.  On his next at-bat, Machado crushed a homerun into the Orioles bullpen to bring the crowd to their feet. Once Machado passed by Donaldson without any verbal or physical retaliation, the fans figured that the incident had subsided.  Then, Wei-Yin Chen unleashed a fastball right at Donaldson's head that was clearly intentional and proceeded to him on the next pitch. Chen was rightfully warned but neither bench left the dugout unlike the tag play. Once THAT happened, I figured that was the last we would hear of this. Boy, was I wrong. Although Saturday went on without a hitch, you know that baseball players don't let any of their unwritten laws get broken without further punishment.

Sunday, bloody Sunday (not quite) got off without a hitch, neither Donaldson or Machado seemed the target of any action on the field until the 6th inning. Unnoticed at first by myself, when Derek Norris had taken a shot to the helmet (twice!) from the bat of Machado (shocking), I didn't even realize that Manny offered zero remorse and couldn't even muster up an apology or ask if he was okay.  In addition, he was also accused of smirking at a shaken up Norris on the ground in pain. Unlike myself, the A's bench definitely noticed, especially fellow catchers Stephen Vogt & John Jaso.  He noted after the game that “Those back swings, OK, that stuff does happen, and the guy who did it is always like, ‘Hey, are you all right?’ It’s always like that,” ... “When people aren’t aware or don’t even care about that etiquette a lesson needs to be taught there. … That little bit of camaraderie, that sportsmanship, needs to be there.”  Vogt, Norris' replacement behind the plate would also voice his opinion in the 8th inning when the proverbial "shit" hit the fan.

With hard-throwing lefty Fernando Abad in the game to relieve Kazmir, Machado stepped to the plate in the 8th inning and quickly received an inside fastball straight at his left knee.  Thankfully, Manny was able to get out of the way but he then proceeded to stare down Abad, who was unfazed by the entire incident. Next pitch, all hell broke loose as another inside pitch produced a VERY late, unhealthy swing by Machado who flung the bat over the head of Alberto Callaspo. To be fair, I had forgot Callaspo replaced Donaldson in the 6th due to the blowout and assumed Machado launched the bat towards him on purpose. Upon further review, Machado swung extremely late and had no intention to swing at the pitch. After letting the situation blow over after a few days and let the relentless media die down, I'm still extremely disappointed in Manny's actions.  He refused to apologize initially and his interview last night seemed half-hearted and I expected better from him.  Watching Baseball Tonight on ESPN last night, Barry Larkin seemed angry re-watching the clips and he expects an suspension, as do I.

Now, I'm receiving an alert from ESPN about Dan Duquette considering a demotion to the minors for Machado which I don't feel is necessary at the time.  Manny had begun to hit the ball much better before the incident and a demotion should only be disciplinary purposes only. Also, with a suspension looming, I feel that this will be enough time for Manny to reflect on his actions.

To conclude, Manny Machado is a supreme talent. No questions asked.  However, he's the future of this franchise and with his recent contract issues, I hope that this does not turn the Orioles management away from signing him to a lengthy extension to keep him in Baltimore for many years. Of course this is a black eye on the reputation on the young infielder but it should not overshadow his potential and his previous demeanor. This is hopefully a one time occurrence and should not hinder the Orioles success in the near future.

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