In late July, when the Phillies had sole possession of first place in the NL East and were playing well, they were reported to be in on then-Orioles infielder Manny Machado. They were ultimately outbid by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but are still expected to pursue the right-handed hitting Machado this offseason once he enters free-agency.
While it disappointed fans, the Phillies did not acquire Machado because they felt the high price tag was too high for a half-season rental. But, the Phillies, who are connected to Machado through team President Andy MacPhail, appear to have at least some interest in giving a contract to the shortstop. Machado, who is expected to get one of the, if not the, biggest contracts in baseball history is one of the best players in the game. Common sense says the Phillies should do whatever they can to sign him, no matter the cost.
Up until just last week, Machado seemed to be a great fit for Gabe Kapler’s team. His presence in the lineup would power the teams otherwise lackluster offense. He has hit a career .282 and has 30+ homeruns in each of his past four seasons, and has not even entered the prime of his career.
One potential red flag on Machado has been his insistence on playing shortstop on his next team. The 7th year player was an elite fielder at third base but has been below average since his move to short. Machado’s attitude on this paints him as a me-first player; but, this alone was not going to stop any team, including the Phillies, from targeting him this offseason.
Questions about Machado’s character began on Saturday, when he failed to run out a ball he hit deep into shortstop in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the NLCS. Machado was blasted on twitter for his lack of hustle, and his comments to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic about the play only deepened the questions of what kind of player he is:
“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 and … you know, whatever can happen”, Machado said on his failure to run out the play in Game 2. “That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.”
Some appreciated Machado’s honesty, but his comments made many fans feel uneasy about their team giving him a lucrative contract this offseason. While Machado’s bat is one of the best in the game, is it really going to reflect well in a locker room to give a $300 million-dollar contract to a player who admits that he doesn’t hustle?
The spotlight remained on Machado during Game 3 on Monday night, when two slides into Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia appeared to be dirty. The first came in the second inning when Machado, trying to break up a double play slid under Arcia, who was midair, and pushed his leg towards home plate. Arcia was unable to get the ball out to try to complete the double play, and even though it could not be considered interference with Arcia in the base-paths, Machado’s slide raised some eyebrows.
In the fourth inning, on a similar play, Machado pushed Arcia’s leg to again try to break up the double play. Machado pushed Arcia’s leg when he got to second-base after the ball had been thrown to first, and runner’s interference was called. While Machado’s slide didn’t even affect the throw, his push of Arcia’s leg certainly appeared to be dirty.
The killer for Machado came Tuesday night in Game 4 on a ground out in the 10th inning. When he crossed first-base after being thrown out, Machado’s left leg clipped the right ankle of Brewer’s first-basemen Jesus Aguilar. Replays showed that Machado knew exactly what he was doing, and his careless play could have injured Aguilar. The incident led to the benches being cleared, and although nothing came of it, it was evident that the Brewers have found Machado’s play this entire series to be dirty.
Machado steps on Aguilar. dirty. should've thrown him out of the game. pic.twitter.com/jm8npp3Lq1
— megan BRAUNY FOREVER brown (@thatgirlondeck) October 17, 2018
This was not the first time Machado has been called out on the base paths. Last season, Machado spiked and injured Red Sox second-basemen Dustin Pedroia, and Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes retaliated days later when he beaned him. However, nothing else came of this incident and Machado has not again been questioned about his slides into second until now.
Maybe Machado has always been a ‘dirty’ player, but it took playing in the spotlight to show his true colors to baseball fans. He will still get his contract; GM’s will value Machado’s bat over the rest of his games 100 times out of 100. But, the Phillies should be weary of adding a guy like Machado to the clubhouse as his play this series has shown himself to be a self-centered, dishonest player.
It is one thing to add a me-first player who has a history of being dirty or not hustling. Plenty of these players exist, and they always find teams. It is another thing, however, to give one $300 million-dollars, as it sends the message to the rest of your clubhouse that the valuables of being a team player and running out every play means nothing.
There are plenty of options for the Phillies to add via free agency and trade this winter. They should stay clear of Machado and avoid disturbing any form of unity in Gabe Kapler’s clubhouse.
Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports