Manny Machado is an elite player who occupies — or at least wants to — a premium position. He’s only 26 years old, has made four All-Star teams, owns two Gold Gloves (at third base, not short), and has hit at least 33 home runs in each of the last four seasons. So how is it that he’s become something of an afterthought, or at least the clear second fiddle to Bryce Harper, in hot stove conversations.
A lot of that is Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, who is pimping his client with the gusto of a politician on Election Day Eve. That I haven’t seen ads for the hirsute slugger flaunting his new Dewey Cox ‘do between moves on Words With Friends is a wonder. Machado, on the other hand, has been running more of a whisper campaign.
But it’s what the longtime Oriole said to Ken Rosenthal about his perceived disrespect for 90 during the playoffs that drowned out much of the other chatter.
“Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ’Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base,” Machado said (subscription). “That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.”
What’s even more obvious than Machado’s desire to not change is that teams are simply using his words as a weapon against him. Take the Yankees, for example, who were reportedly turned off by their former division opponent’s performance against the Brewers that included some “dirty” plays on the basepaths. Yeah, sure, because a few games viewed on television would outweigh parts of seven season facing him in person.
Whether it’s because the market for his services hasn’t quite developed to his liking or simply to squash some of the BS narratives that have cropped up (or both), Machado addressed his comments in an interview with MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
“When I was asked that question, I was definitely on the defensive, and I was wrong to answer it the way that I did, because looking back, it doesn’t come across how I meant it,” Machado said. “For me, I was trying to talk about how I’m not the guy who is eye wash. There’s a difference between fake hustle for show and being someone who tries hard to win. I’ve always been the guy who does whatever he can to win for his team.
“But I know how I said it and how that came across, and it’s something I take responsibility for. I look forward to talking with each GM and owner that we meet with about that, or any other questions they have.”
While there’s no way for Machado to turn the tide of publicity on a grand scale, this should serve to soften public perception of his playing style. More importantly, he’s effectively removed the cudgel with which teams would try to beat down his value. Not that it matters as far as the Cubs are concerned, mind you.
As for the rest of the league, well, this could restore Machado’s public image to the extent that the bidding landscape changes a little at the upper tier. Or maybe the teams themselves don’t care and the only thing this changes is social media responses to news that [insert commenter’s favorite team] is interested in paying Machado a lot of money to play baseball.