Any day now we can expect to see Manny Machado step up to the plate for the first time as a Padre after a long and protracted signing saga that at one point looked like it might never end.
The problem with these kind of deals being played out so publicly is that a lot of dirty laundry gets aired at the same time. In the heat of a battle – and make no mistake, a free-agent frenzy like this winter is most definitely a battle – people say and do things they might not ordinarily do, all in the name of getting the best deal, be that for their team or their client or themselves. All’s fair in love and contract negotiations, right?
Which is why you’ll almost certainly have heard fans and even team officials of plenty of clubs in and outside of the ‘Manny-go-round’ question the 26-year-old’s character and use it as a reason to either not sign him, or at least to try and get his asking price down.
Let’s get one thing straight, Machado has not helped himself with some hissy-fits and dirty plays in some of the most high-profile games in sports. He’s given his detractors ammunition to fire at him, damaged his reputation and potentially his market-value in negotiations this winter. Then there’s the question of hustle, and you better believe this came up in his 4-5-hour meeting with AJ Preller.
Machado drew the ire of fans of both the Dodgers and the game itself – though markedly not of his manager Dave Roberts – when he quit on a play in the middle of Game 2 of the NLCS last October. Failing to hustle after a routine groundout to short. In the midst of the furore, Machado conducted a TV interview where he told Ken Rosenthal that he wouldn’t change the way he plays.
“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… That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.
“Should I have run on that pitch? Yeah … but I didn’t and I gotta pay the consequences for it. It does look bad. It looks terrible. I look back at the video and I’m like, ‘Whoa, what was I doing?'”
“There’s no excuse for it, honestly. I’ve never given excuses for not running. I’m not hurt, there’s no excuse. But I’ve been the same player … I’ve been doing this for years, I’m in The Show for years, I’ve done the same thing for years, I’ve been the same player.”
Soon after Machado did however suggest one day he might “figure it out.”
“Before I even step out of the box, I look to the shortstop, he has the ball in his hands and I’m like, ‘I’m out.’ … I mean, what am I going to do?” Should I have given it a little more effort? One hundred percent. [It’s] my fault like always, I mean that’s just my mentality when I’m in the game. [There are] things that you learn, things that you gotta change. I’ve tried changing it for eight years, and I still can’t figure it out but, one of these days I will.”
Let’s hope that that day is coming soon at Petco Park. If not however, then there is hope from the unlikely direction of the Windy City…
In thinly-veiled moves to try and persuade Machado to move to the South Side this winter, the White Sox added former Friars Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso – Manny’s brother-in-law – to their ranks in the close season. As it turns out it possibly backfired as both players are reported to have ended up helping Machado decide to give in to the lure of America’s Finest City. During his new club’s courtship of Machado, Jay told NBC Chicago he had no doubts over Machado’s commitment, describing him as an ‘unbelievable worker’ while First Baseman Alonso went even further. He said:
“We’re looking at a player, a family person, a player that wants to be better every single day, a guy that pushes everybody. This guy shows up every day. … We know what this guy does. I know what he does off the field, on the field. When he shows up, he shows up ready to play every single day. He gives it everything he’s got, and at the end of the day it’s about wins, wins, wins, wins. That’s all he wants.”
“I know that in his past, playoffs, things were overblown, I believe. All the people don’t see the things that nobody can see: inside that clubhouse, how he gets ready, how he prepares, bringing it every single day, every night and making guys better every single day. This guy plays hard.”
“He plays really good defense. He’s been a Platinum Glove winner. We obviously all know what kind of player he is when it comes to the offensive side. To do all those things you’ve got to play hard. You’ve got to go out there and give it all you got because there’s so many talented players out there that play the game very hard. … I believe that he’s that type of player.”
Still not sold, how about another sadly former Padre… Brad Brach who spent five years in the clubhouse with Machado at the Orioles after bring traded by San Diego and who is now on the Cubs.
“He was good. He goes out there and plays hard every day. I know obviously some quotes were said later in the playoffs, but I enjoyed him as a teammate. He’s going to make anybody who has him better, and he’s a once-in-a-generation talent. It’s exciting to get to see that on a daily basis.”
“I think seeing him every day, you really appreciate it. If you see him in a short series or seven days or something like that, you might not appreciate what he brings for 162.”
So, there you have it! Don’t dwell on what you might have seen in a couple of TV games last October… by all means listen to those guys who know him best, but let’s wait to see Machado work his magic in a Padres uniform over an extended period and then we can draw our own conclusions!
Feature image from MLB.com