Labeled and often misunderstood, Major League Baseball and its fans owe San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado an apology. Machado is a leader in the clubhouse and is enjoying the best start to a season in his career. He is not a villain, and it is time to end the stigma.
Grittiness. The desire to win.
Things like this are often not considered when evaluating a baseball player.
The emergence of analytics and the numbers behind the game have further complicated the evaluation process for scouts. The statistics and numbers of the game are truly the heart of the sport, but the players are responsible for dictating the digits when it is all said and done. Predicting who will put up these numbers consistently is what can make or break a MLB front office job.
The grind of major league baseball cannot be overstated when compiling numbers. Complacency and laziness are easily attainable as the game, and its grind is maddening to the inexperienced ballplayer. Looking into a player’s psyche is slowly being adopted as franchises attempt to predict which young players will fizzle under the pressure and limelight of advanced baseball.
Scouts would label men they were looking at as “baseball players” back in the day. This title was used to let people know that this player has a desire to be out there each game. These men are ballplayers in every sense of the word. They love the game.
San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado is undoubtedly a “baseball player.”
From the artistic-like way he fields a baseball and flips it across the field with ease to how he breezes around the bases after smoking a home run into the stands. Machado is a “baseball player” in every sense of the word. Most fans outside of San Diego have a hard time grasping this concept. Instead, he is booed and labeled a villain by the opposing team’s fanbase. This past week in Milwaukee, Machado was booed relentlessly by the fan base. His 2018 performance in the playoffs against the Brewers was not forgotten.
The skill level for Machado was never a question for fans. His desire and level of enthusiasm were never a problem. In Baltimore (and LA), the young Machado played with an edge. He played the game with a chip on his shoulder, which fueled him each day. Sometimes that fuel provided opponents an opportunity to gain motivation against Machado and his team. A few times, the young player let his emotions get the best of him. In 2018, Machado was overly-aggressive on the base paths. He made some questionable plays, but you cannot question his desire to win.
If you asked the third baseman, I am sure he would describe his game as more relaxed now in a Padres uniform.
Don’t get me wrong- there is a lot of fire left in his eyes. But, the veteran player can now step away and regroup while the game is still being played. This ability has further developed him as a player. If he makes an error or records a strikeout in a key situation, it is possible for Machado to move on.
The player is never bigger than the game, which Machado communicated to Fernando Tatis Jr. last year. The well-publicized dugout scene sent vibrations around MLB, but not in a negative way. Machado earned a lot of credit around the league for his vocal outburst. Tatis may have one of the best skill levels in the game, but he is still a developing player. The elder Machado took it upon himself not to let the shortstop go down a bad path.
This act showed great maturity. It displayed that Machado has indeed grown up. The game is not all about fieriness and playing with an edge. That can only take you so far, and in time, Machado has learned to play even kiel. His actions are more relaxed, and his philosophy of the game is infectious to young players. Machado, a man who was constantly booed, should be praised by fans of the sport. The love and respect he possesses for the game are remarkable.
You will often find Machado speaking to children. He interacts well with the youth, and there is an obvious love from the kids he communicates with. Machado is all about paying it forward, and his love of the game is never in question. Manny Machado plays each day and does so with confidence. The third baseman provides infectious energy to the San Diego Padres, and he is undoubtedly the captain of the team.
Manny Machado’s goal remains a World Series title. Nothing else is of importance to him. His numbers this season are easily his best to start a MLB season. Machado is playing the game on a whole new level with a focus in his eyes in 2022.
Great players are booed by the fan base of the opposing teams. Machado will likely always generate that kind of buzz when he is on the road. As Reggie Jackson once said- “Fans don’t boo nobodies.” However, some fans do owe Manny Machado an apology. He is not the villain that people label him.