A new and improved Manny Machado

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Credit: AP Photo

No doubt, Manny Machado arrived in San Diego with a reputation–not a real positive one. Critics complained that he didn’t hustle all the time and played dirty.

In fact, during the National League Championship Series in 2018, Machado himself bragged about not being a “Johnny Hustle’ in an interview on FOX Sports. During that same series Cristian Yelich called Machado out. For being a “dirty player.”

Machado has been blamed for the decline of Dustin Pedroia, the second baseman for the Boston Red Sox, from 2006 to 2019. In a game in 2017 between the Baltimore Orioles and the Red Sox, Machado’s high slide spiked Dustin Pedroia in the back of his left knee. Although Pedroia tried to play through the pain, he was never the same after the injury. In 2018 and 2019, he appeared in a total of nine games, batting .091 and .100, way below his career average of .299.

Obviously undeterred by Machado’s rep, in February 2019, A.J. Preller, the Padres general manager, offered him the most generous contract at the time in American sports history at $300 million over ten years. Machado agreed to move to third to make way for Fernando Tatis Jr.

The White Sox had also tried to lure him with $259 million over eight years. Fortunately, the division-rival Los Angeles Dodgers let him walk. In July 2018, the Orioles had traded Machado to the Dodgers for outfielder Yusniel Diaz, third baseman Ryan Bannon, right-hander Dean Kremer and two other prospects. He’d taken over at short when Corey Seager was injured. But, with Seager back, the Dodgers chose not to pursue Machado.

Since arriving in San Diego, Machado has turned his reputation upside down. Perhaps he’s just grown up, as he’ll be 30 in July and is playing in his tenth big league season. Whatever the reason, Machado has become irreplaceable in San Diego.

According to Ryan Flaherty, a former teammate of Machado from 2012 to 2017 and currently the Padres quality control coach, “He’s just engaged—offensively, defensively, base running.”

Padres manager Bob Melvin has also weighed in on his no-hustle reputation, “You have a perception of him from the other side, that maybe it’s not the fastest pace in the world. But it’s an easy peace because he makes the game look easy. When you’re around him every day, you realize this guy plays hard. He’s out there every day.”

Rarely will Machado skip a game, although he finally sat out Saturday, May 28’s disappointing 4-3 loss to the Pirates as he nursed an injury akin to a tennis elbow. Instead of going on the IL, Machado has chosen to rely on ice, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Last year he hurt his shoulder in April but played on for another month before he finally sat out five games. He returned to the field, playing in 105 of the final 112 games of the season, ending with a batting line of 278/.347/.489. His OPS of .836 ranked 17th in the N.L.

In Machado’s own words, “You put the blinders on and just go.”

After playing under first-time big league managers Andy Green and Jayce Tingler, Machado obviously appreciates Melvin’s experience. He has said he thinks “Bob brings the best out of all of us.”

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Machado’s first season was a bit of a disappointment, considering the hoopla and dollars involved. He batted .256/.334/.487/.825, with 21 doubles, two triples, and 32 home runs, OPS+ 110. However, in the 2020 mini-season, he batted .304/.370/.589/.950,  with 12 doubles, one triple, and 16 home runs, OPS+ 160. Last year, Machado batted .273/.347/.489/.836, with 28 home runs, OPS+ 131.

Machado led the Padres with 157 hits and 106 RBI, was second in doubles at 31 behind Jake Cronenworth’s 33, and second in home runs at 28 behind Tatis Jr.’s 42.

Cronenworth has high praise for his teammate: “He’s the perfect example of like, whatever he’s got that day, it doesn’t matter. That guy shows up more ready to play than anybody I’ve ever played with.”

Ex-manager Jayce Tingler marvels at Machado’s baseball IQ, including his instincts and timing, calling him “the most talented defensive player I’ve ever been around.”

Bobby Dickerson, the infield coach with the Padres, has compared Machado’s skills to that of Michael Jordan’s penchant for three-pointers and called him “the best defender in the league. He’s one of many to praise his baseball savvy, strong arm, and skills at transfer. Executive Chairman Ron Fowler considers Machado to be “a generational talent.”

In 2021 catcher Victor Caratini marveled at Machado’s level of commitment to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, “He’s playing with heart, and he’s done it all year, even when he’s not feeling 100 percent.”

Adam Jones, a teammate for seven years in Baltimore, insists that if Machado were white, he wouldn’t carry around a reputation as a dirty player. Instead, Jones regards Machado as a guy who plays hard and with passion.


When Manny Machado got in Fernando Tatis Jr.’s face in full view of spectators and television cameras, he cemented his place as a team leader for the San Diego Padres. He had the audacity to call out the uber-talented fan favorite for his lack of hustle.

Indeed, the 300-million-dollar man got in the face of the 340-million-dollar shortstop. After all, he’s the veteran, a guy who has been there and done that, who has earned the respect of his teammates.

https://theathletic.com/2834147/2021/09/19/manny-machado-fernando-tatis-jr-exchange-words-as-frustrations-boil-over-in-padres-worst-loss-of-the-year/

Preller, the man who brought him to San Diego, also extols his talent: “Manny is one of the truly elite players in baseball and impacts the game on both sides of the ball…His combination of youth, experience, and ability makes him a perfect fit for the Padres both now and in the future as we work to build a perennial contender at the Major League Level.”

When the Padres acquired Machado, the front office focused on his talent, a talent that has earned 45.2 WAR over his career so far. No one assumed he would become a clubhouse leader. But his confrontation with Tatis Jr. elevated his status with the team. If anyone can reach the wunderkind, it’s a guy like Manny Machado.

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Diane Calkins
Baseball has been a part of Diane's life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.

7 thoughts on “A new and improved Manny Machado

  1. Machado is a elite player, no doubt. Adam Jones can shove his race card. Machado’s past is well documented.

    1. Hi Tom,

      Machado is elite and complicated. He does seem to have had an attitude adjustment especially since he arrived in San Diego. Padres would be in a total mess without him.

      Diane

  2. Nice article Diane!

    I remember the reputation he had when we signed him. To be honest, I had mixed feelings.

    They say he’s just smooth and makes things look easy. I still view him as a player that only gives 100% when he wants to. That still does not sit well with Me. No one in the organization or around him would say anything negative about him.

    Regardless, he’s ours. I’ll cheer for him because he’s a Padre. I hope he gives 100% all the time. I hope he leads this team to better days.

    1. Hi Tony,

      I was conflicted too when the Padres signed Machado, especially because of the price tag. But I do feel he’s matured. Plus, he hardly ever takes a day off. In many ways, he makes the game look easy, which it certainly isn’t.

      It seems to me that he’s matured from a punk to a team leader.

      Thanks for your thoughts,

      Diane

  3. Great article, Diane…Machado on defense is as good as it gets…he always knows the exact amount of effort required for each play… He often looks way too casual, but more often than not…he gets it done.
    On offense, he takes that little slap swing, and pops up way too much…he needs to drive the baseball more, even if it results in an out…but…his average speaks for itself. I will say he won’t often hustle down the line…which results in outs, even when the defense bobbles the ball…As far as his confrontation with Tatis…that was exactly what the youngster needed…Tatis needs to mature…and fast…” Welcome to the Show ” ….

    1. Thanks Pads fan,

      I’m glad you liked the article. Like most humans, Machado is complicated. Is he dogging it or is he doing just enough? Like most fans, I don’t like players that don’t hustle. But I admire the fact that he plays just about every day not matter what.

      I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s matured.

      Diane

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