Manny Machado raced around third base in the 13th inning with everything he had, before scoring the game-winning run for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. He was a man laying it all on the line for his team to keep its season from reaching the brink of elimination. The shortstop has been a key bat in the postseason, blasting three homers and driving in nine — perhaps the man Dave Roberts would most want up in key situations.
And that’s really no surprise because Machado, still only 26, is one of the best young players in the game. He’s already amassed 175 homers and a 33.8 WAR. A future place in Cooperstown is conceivable if he continues along the path.
But Machado is complicating his future and his present in real time with a Mr. Hyde side. His childish behavior has been on full display against the Milwaukee Brewers and came to a head when he needlessly and intentionally clipped first baseman Jesus Aguilar in the 10th inning of Tuesday night’s game.
Cooler heads prevailed and Machado did not face consequences. He stayed in the game to single and score the winning run. But his behavior, which has no place in the game, put his status in jeopardy. It wasn’t smart, it was selfish. And there’s a chance Major League Baseball could suspend him if they deem it was dirty — an opinion shared by Christian Yelich and a lot of other people with eyes.
Machado is a great player who allows himself to get in his own way. In Game 3 he went into second with two illegal slides. One was reviewed and cost his team an out and a chance at a rally. Early in Game 4 he attempted to call timeout when the ball was being delivered and was left looking at strike three down the middle.
These are things that hurt his team. These are things that stand out to those who play smart as less than smart.
Then there’s another category. Machado went on record saying that hustling isn’t his cup of tea. One can love sticking it to the sourdoughs and embracing the Millennial-ness of such an attitude and also realize that it’s playing with fire. It won’t play well with teammates who do hustle and front offices who put a value on such a thing.
When his real or perceived lack of hustle leads to failure, he’ll look like a clown. To Machado, that’s an acceptable risk.
In the long run, it probably won’t burn him. But then again, if he is doing this Bush League stuff in the NLCS, he’ll do it in the World Series. The Dodgers don’t seem particularly interested in holding him accountable — at least in public. It could be a different story behind closed doors. There could be unhealthy discontent and animosity, which Machado is further exacerbating.
It is a joy to watch the good Manny play. It is painful to watch the selfish Manny play. Perhaps it’s too much of an Old Man Take to think he needs to pick which player he wants to be. Perhaps he can be great with all this baggage.
Or maybe growing up would go a long way.