In August 2012, the Orioles were in the wild card hunt and desperate to solve a problem - third base. Former Oriole Mark Reynolds, despite his power, was struggling at the hot corner, and executive vice president Dan Duquette, the front office, along with manager Buck Showalter were looking for a solution.
In the middle of that month, the Orioles did something bold and head-scratching at the same time. They promoted Manny Machado from Double-A Bowie to the majors.
At first, I was bewildered at the news. I wondered why they would promote a 20-year-old who was only hitting .266 with 11 home runs in 400 or so at-bats at Bowie,
Furthermore, the organization announced Machado would play third base - a position he manned only twice in the minors. When I heard that, I too shook my head; however, if Machado could play much better than Reynolds at third, then why not?
I was a little concerned that the organization would rush the youngster and perhaps impede his development.
Obviously, Duquette and Showalter knew their personnel very well and took a roll of the dice with the youngster. As FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal revealed this week, the Orioles were doing their best to get Machado acclimated to the position throughout last summer.
Machado was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2010, and seemed to be from a good pedigree. The Baltimore front office and Showalter figured he could handle the pressure of third base, the rigors of the majors and play a role in a pennant race.
The Orioles succeeded all expectations - and then some - in 2012.
So did Machado.
His promotion was a gamble that paid off then and is reaping benefits now.
Not only did Machado shored up third base last season and become a mainstay at the position, but he has become an integral part of the offense. Machado is currently batting second in the Baltimore lineup and has a .313 batting average with five home runs and 22 RBIs.
Of course, his defense at third base - not his bat - seems to command most of the attention.
The young man is a small, but very critical part as to why the Orioles are 21-13 and tied with the Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League East this morning. It is still early, but Machado and the Orioles are flying high so far.
Although other young stars such as Mike Trout for the Los Angeles Angels and Bryce Harper, who plays down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for the Nationals, seem to get the majority of the baseball world’s attention, that is quickly changing for Machado. Jerry Crasnick has a wonderful piece about him this week on ESPN’s Web site, as did Rosenthal, who I have already mentioned.
Machado has become a fan favorite and beloved by everyone. However, you forget that he is not even old enough to step into a bar and legally have a drink. With all that being said, he looks like a veteran.
I’ve remarked to several people that Machado plays like a guy who has been in the majors 10 years, not just 85 games as of this morning.
When I first saw him on the field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards last summer, I was amazed at how tall Machado was (at 6-foot-3) and his build. I certainly knew about him, but I took a second glance and muttered to a friend, “Boy, Manny looks like a young A-Rod.”
The question for fans now is this: Does he stay at third base throughout his career, or do the Orioles eventually move him to shortstop when J.J. Hardy’s contract expires - or earlier?
Will he be mentioned in the future in the same breath as Brooks Robinson - or Cal Ripken Jr.?
Of course, it is too early to compare him to two future Hall of Famers. However, this much is certain: Machado is here to stay and is very much part of the team’s core for the near future.
Anthony Amobi blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O’s appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.