So how good is Manny Machado at third base?
I decided to ask someone who owns 16 Gold Gloves at the position.
“He’s as good as anybody playing over there,” said Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.
If that’s how No. 5 feels, that’s good enough for me.
“I see some of the games and read the papers and have watched the plays that he’s made on TV,” Robinson said yesterday during our phone conversation. “He has great hands, great instincts. The Orioles have been winning and he’s a big part of it.”
Robinson saw a replay of Machado’s throw at Yankee Stadium that retired Luis Cruz, the young third baseman’s momentum carrying him toward the visiting dugout. It was quite similar to Robinson’s play in the 1970 World Series that robbed Lee May, except Machado’s throw arrived to first base on the fly.
“He showed his natural instincts,” Robinson said. “He knocked down the ball and got it on the bounce and threw off-balance to first base. He’s got a great arm, a very strong arm. And it’s very accurate. That’s really a positive.”
Robinson also praised Machado’s skills at the plate, which produced a .310 average, 128 hits, 39 doubles and 36 multi-hit games in the first half.
“What impresses me is he uses the whole field,” Robinson said.
“He deserves to be on the All-Star team. He’s been a terrific player for the Orioles. And one reason they’re winning is they’re so much better defensively with him over there and Chris Davis at first base. It’s been super.
“I’m pulling for Manny. They’ve got a great ballpark to hit in, and that’s fine.”
I get the sense that Robinson wishes he had been able to play at Camden Yards. He definitely views it as a hitter-friendly ballpark.
What about the pressure Machado must feel as more people around the country begin comparing him to Robinson?
“I said hello to him one time at the ballpark and he seems like a terrific kid,” Robinson said. “I don’t think he even thinks about pressure. He’s so used to playing baseball and going out and doing well, I don’t think he thinks about it.
“If the team wasn’t winning and he struggled some, it might be a different story. But I think he’s got it all together.”
Robinson has attended two games this season, including one during the last homestand. He watches as many games as he can on television.
“It seems like when we win, the Red Sox win, and when we lose, the Red Sox lose. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens,” he said.
“Buck (Showalter) and Dan (Duquette) deserve a lot of credit. I’ve talked to Dan four or five times. I really like him. And I like Buck, too.”
Robinson paid Showalter the ultimate compliment, comparing him to Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver.
“They have a lot of confidence in Buck,” he said. “When we played for Earl and we’d go to their town or they’d come here, the other team felt like we had the better manager and he’s not going to get beat. It would be the players who would lose, not the manager losing games. And that’s how it is with Buck. And Buck doesn’t miss anything. He’s on top of everything.”
Robinson’s health is much better - he’s slowly recovering from his backward fall off a six-foot-high stage during a charity event in Florida in January 2012 - and it’s the best news that I can pass along this morning.
“I’ve been feeling good,” he said. “I played golf yesterday. I’m doing all right. I get tired early. I played 14 holes and just quit. And I was even riding. But I’m doing good. I’ve got no problems. I’ve just got to get my strength back.”