During the NLCS, I got a little emotional.
You see, Manny Machado was doing some stuff, and all of it was bad. He wasn’t hustling, he didn’t care he wasn’t hustling and also did a couple of dirty plays that basically made it seem like he was the worst guy in the world.
The “Johnny Hustle” comments were atrocious. No other way to say it. His kicking Jesus Aguilar’s leg as he ran past first base was mind bogglingly-infantile. And for a guy who was looking for a $300-400 million contract this off-season, claiming he didn’t want to be someone who didn’t hustle was moronic and, without question, tainted his character.
At the time, I wrote about how Machado was not the guy for the Phillies. At the time, I believed it.
But a guy can change his mind, can’t he?
Manny Machado is not a perfect player. Sure, I’d love it if he were a hustle-first guy, someone who always played with his hair on fire. It would have been great if he hadn’t done all that stupid stuff in the playoffs last year.
But to hear some people calling him a “clubhouse cancer” is just silly. That had never been his reputation in Baltimore. Was he beloved by everyone in the clubhouse? Probably not, but aside from Chase Utley, who is? He was never a “cancer.” In fact, he was always seen as a valuable member of the organization.
There’s a reason why the Phillies tried to trade for him at midseason last year. And remember, the Phils front office is filled with guys who used to be in Baltimore’s front office when Machado was first getting started. They know him. Trust that.
It’s important to remember the Phillies’ all-time hits leader is Jimmy Rollins, a player who was benched on numerous occasions by manager Charlie Manuel during the 2008 World Series run. No, Rollins never said anything like the “Johnny Hustle” comments after either incident, but the fact he didn’t always run out a grounder certainly didn’t stop him from becoming one of the most important and beloved figures in team history.
Remember Manny Ramirez? Remember how he tortured the Phils in those ‘08 playoffs and all those MVP-type seasons he had for Boston? Remember how he won two world titles with the Red Sox, despite being a player renowned for being aloof and not hustling? Wouldn’t you have wanted him on some of those Phillies teams from the early 2000s? How much better would those squads have been?
Simply put, Manny Machado is generational talent who is a free agent in his mid-20s. He comes into Philadelphia today having already visited the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, and it’s possible that, by the end of the day, the Phils will have made him an offer that would make him the highest paid player in MLB history.
He could be a Phillie by the end of the week. Just sayin’, it’s possible.
I know what Machado said and did during the NLCS was bad. I reacted to it the same way you did.
But when you have the opportunity to sign a player on a track to the Hall of Fame, and you get to sign that player just as he’s entering his prime, you have to do it if you can.
And the Phillies can.
So, they should.
Machado, if he signs with Philadelphia, will win far more games for this franchise than he might lose by not hustling. And who knows, as he gets older, perhaps he will mature. I would hope so, but it’s not something you can count on.
I understand why people might prefer Bryce Harper over Manny Machado, and believe me, if that’s what ends up happening, I’ll be elated. There are a number of reasons why Harper might be the better choice. For me, Machado fits this team better, but Harper would be amazing.
So with Machado in Philadelphia, this is my mea culpa. I no longer believe it would be bad for the Phils to sing the mercurial superstar. Even if they have to blow the Yankees’ offer out of the water, they should do it.
The Philllies need a player like Machado (or Harper) on this roster. Tune out the noise, Machado is really damn good and can change this team’s fortunes moving forward.