Padres’ star Manny Machado is taking bullets during the rise of Fernando Tatis Jr.

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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As Fernando Tatis Jr. explodes in production for the San Diego Padres in 2020, the criticism of Manny Machado is growing among the fan base. But is it warranted? 

On February 21, 2019, Manny Machado signed a 10-year/$300 million deal with the San Diego Padres. He decided to leave the Los Angeles Dodgers … and that made it even sweeter for Padres fans.

At the time, it was the most luxurious sports contract in North American sports history until Bryce Harper signed his $330 million deal two weeks later. Padres’ fans were ecstatic and couldn’t help but say to themselves … “The day has come. The Padres are finally relevant.”

There were high expectations immediately for the superstar third baseman as he had previously won two American League Gold Glove Awards (2013, 2015) and was also a 4-time all-star (2013, 2015-16, 2018) with the Baltimore Orioles.

Machado’s best season as a pro came in 2018, the year he was traded to the Dodgers. Before the trade, the Gold Glover had a line of .315/.387/.963. He knocked out 24 home runs, with 65 RBIs to go with a total of 115 hits in 96 games.

The 26-year-old, at the time, was dominating the American League. The Orioles, as a team, weren’t competing for playoff contention, and Machado made it clear he wanted to win.

After the trade, Machado did not hit as well as he had hoped in the National League. In 66 games for LA, he did slug 14 home runs and knocked in 42 RBIs, but his average was .273 — and the overall total (AL and NL) dropped to .297 by the end of the regular season.

Padres’ fans had no idea what to expect from the 27-year-old when he was signed. Machado is now 28, and in eight seasons in the bigs, he has yet to hit for an average at or above .300. He simply is not that kind of hitter.

Let’s not forget how dominant he is on the hot corner. He takes base hits away with ease and makes every play seem routine.

Machado is known for his elite defense as he has a career 9.68 defensive rating. That’s right; he is an A+ defender.

So why are Padres fans expecting him to be the NL Silver Slugger at third base? Why are some fans upset? Machado is a terrific offensive player, and the entire baseball world knows that. El Ministro didn’t have the best start as a Padre offensively in 2019. He hit an average of .256 to go with 32 homers and 85 RBIs. He recorded a career-high 128 strikeouts, and that was frustrating for fans.

Some have questioned if there is anything off with either his swing or approach to the plate. However, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with his swing as he continues to get praise for how beautiful and natural it looks.

Machado hit a grand slam in the 3rd inning Tuesday night in Los Angeles. That is now six since 2017 and tied for the MLB lead.

His approach to the plate seems relatively simple, but at times it does seem like he’s just swinging his bat recklessly and not locked-in. There is no-doubt the phenom defender will get back into his groove for the Padres. He needs more time to adjust, and with the rise of Fernando Tatis Jr. playing just to the left of him, I’m sure he has the motivation not only to perform well, but win. That is his primary goal.

Machado does not hit right-handed pitchers as well as he does southpaws. According to FanGraphs, in 2019, he hit .315 against lefties compared to .239 against right-handers. In fact, he just slugged two home runs in his first two at-bats against Arizona Diamondbacks’ LHP Madison Bumgarner this past Sunday. So, it’s not a surprise as to why the slugger has moved up to the second spot in the batting order against left-handers.

El Ministro is usually in the three-hole against right-handers but has batted cleanup once this season. There is no reason for him to move down in the lineup even with the offensive surge of Eric Hosmer and Rookie Jake Cronenworth in 2020. But it should be noted that he is currently batting just .222 with 12 hits against RHP this season. There is room for improvement for Manny Machado.

Despite the struggles statistically, Machado is still hitting the ball among the hardest in baseball. That is how the sport goes sometimes.

Critics need to relax and stop overreacting when Machado has a bad game. It is part of the sport. Fans are presently spoiled with the rise of Fernando Tatis Jr. and his electric play. Tatis Jr. has been performing like the best player in baseball this season, and it’s easy to get critical when the 300 million dollar man doesn’t perform up to lofty expectations.

The 2020 season has been a rollercoaster from the start. With teams like the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals postponing games due to COVID-19, and players getting suspended, we haven’t had a regular MLB season at all. Some of the top hitters in the game are struggling. Batting averages are down across the board. This isn’t something that can be ignored when being critical of Machado’s start offensively this year.

Eugenio Suarez, Alex Bregman, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Jose Altuve are just some of baseball’s superstars who currently have an average well under .200 this season. Bellinger and Yelich are the two reigning MVP’s in the NL and have yet to make a mark on the 2020 season.

Machado is the 7th ranked third baseman in the NL in batting average despite the fact he is hitting .232. He currently leads all third baseman in home runs with five. Even with these numbers being among the top currently, fans have not been impressed with Machado’s offense. There is still a very good argument that Machado is the top third baseman in the NL this season. With Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Eugenio Suarez, and Eduardo Escobar all struggling to this point, the Padres’ star has time to take the reins for good.

It is worth noting that in his last three games, he is 5-for-12 with three home runs and six RBI’s. The criticism might slowly subside.

The brown uniforms are back, and the 2020 Padres look and feel good. It is only a matter of time until Fernando Tatis Jr. AND Manny Machado lead this team to a playoff run.

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