This has been quite the heel turn for Manny Machado.
The Los Angeles Dodgers star and free-agent-to-be has had quite a National League Championship Series through the first four games, creating controversy at nearly every turn and gaining a number of enemies along the way.
In Game 2, Machado failed to run hard down the first base line on a routine ground ball to shortstop Orlando Arcia, prompting some on social media, and on the TV broadcast, to question his lack of hustle. After the game, Machado said he will never be “Johnny Hustle,” and that running down the line hard is not his “cup of tea.”
After hearing that quote, I largely dismissed it because I have always believed it was silly to criticize players for not running with their hair on fire on every single grounder to the shortstop.
So neither Bryce Harper nor Manny Machado want to hustle. You know what? I was wrong.— John Stolnis (@JohnStolnis) October 16, 2018
THEY'RE JUST NOT PHILLY.
Gotta go get Hunter Pence to make sure we have that hustle down.
Then in Game 3, Machado tried to break up a double play by sliding wide of the second base bag in clear violation of The Utley Rule (which is, admittedly, a dumb rule).
Milwaukee was upset by the play and, in the wake of his “Johnny Hustle” comments, portrayed him in an even less-than-flattering light.
Last night, In Game 4, things went a bit farther as, in the 10th inning, Machado did this.
All you need to know about this dude. pic.twitter.com/UQB3YGwjmP— Dallas Braden (@DALLASBRADEN209) October 17, 2018
After the game, Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, far from an outspoken firebrand, called it a “dirty play by a dirty player,” and threw in, “f**k that m*****r-f****r.” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said, “I don’t know, I guess they got tangled up at first base. I don’t think he’s playing all that hard.”
In his own defense, Machado said, “If that’s dirty, that’s dirty. I don’t know, call it what you want. I play baseball. I try to go out there and win for my team. If that’s their comments, that’s their comments. I can’t do nothing about that.”
What’s interesting about the play is Machado is looking down as he hits Jesus Aguilar’s leg. He does it knowingly. Was it a violent play? No, but it was intentional and without a good reason. You could at least argue the slides were in the heat of the moment and that he was trying to make a baseball play (albeit an illegal one). But there was nothing about this play that was anything other than Machado trying to kick Aguilar in the leg — full stop.
While each of these things may not be that big of a deal individually, when taken together it has to give the Phillies pause about potentially signing him to a long contract worth $300-400 million.
For your consideration, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened with Machado. In 2014, he and then Oakland A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson got into a heated argument after Machado was tagged out running to third base.
You could certainly argue Donaldson’s tag on Machado was harder than it had to be, and in the end, it was a minor incident. This next incident, also from 2014, was a bit more extreme.
Yeah, in response to getting a pitch thrown way inside on him, he tried to throw his bat at the opposing pitcher.
And then you had this incident from 2016.
I am someone who, just days ago, wrote a piece that said there was no good reason for the Phillies not to sign Machado (or Harper). I have long contended that Machado was the preferred option of the two, as his talent is undeniable and he fills a position of need on this team. It feels like Machado has tried to go out of his way to make me look like an idiot.
The incidents this week, coupled with some of his past behavior and attitude issues, leads me to believe Harper would be the better choice to become the face of the Phillies, and I have to wonder if Machado is worth getting at all.
Latino players have been unfairly demonized and targeted by some people as being “too showy” for the game. There have been way too many instances where people stereotype Latino players in this way. But here we have a body of work which clearly shows something going on with Machado, and it has nothing to do with his race.
If you’re asking yourself, “Why is what Manny did any different from Utley’s actions?” there is one big thing to consider. Utley’s slide was legal at the time. Baserunners frequently would slide wide of the bag to try and break up a double play, and while Utley’s slide was ultra-aggressive, I still don’t believe it was dirty. It ended up with an unfortunate injury to Ruben Tejada, and it spawned a rule that Machado knowingly violated.
What’s even more galling is that Machado is doing these things, and saying these things, as teams are considering giving him more money than any other player in MLB history. While some fans may be OK with all this, it most assuredly will not go over well in many front offices. What’s unknown is how it will go over in the Phillies’ front office.
If the Phils were adding Machado to a team like the 2008 squad, one that had a strong locker room and clubhouse culture already in place with Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth, it would be more understandable. It would also make more sense if there was a seasoned manager at the helm, like Charlie Manuel, as opposed to the embattled Gabe Kapler, who is still putting his stamp on the team.
While Rhys Hoskins has tried to be one of the team’s vocal leaders this year, not many other young players have stepped up to the plate. How would Machado’s attitude effect other players? How would his behavior go over with the coaching staff?
If the Phillies were to get Machado, it would be with the intention that he is part of the team’s foundation, and I don’t think signing a guy to a $350 million deal, who outright says he doesn’t want to hustle and has a history of getting in altercations with opposing players and is now engaging in routinely dirty play, is the guy to make the central part of that foundation.
I love the talent and it kills me to say it this — but the Phillies should stay away from Manny Machado this winter, unless it’s on a much shorter-than-expected, much cheaper deal.