There’s no point in tossing out a bunch of topics this morning, since everything seems to lead back to Manny Machado.
I provided as many details as possible yesterday on the latest incident between the Orioles and Athletics, with Fernando Abad throwing twice at Machado and the young third baseman losing control of the bat. And many would say, his emotions.
Machado said it was accidental. The bat slipped out of his hands. The Athletics, I’m told, were fuming in the visiting clubhouse.
They didn’t appreciate Machado’s reaction to Josh Donaldson’s tag Friday night. They were annoyed that he didn’t apologize for hitting catcher Derek Norris yesterday with his backswing - players thought they saw him smiling or laughing - and they most certainly didn’t approve of his bat spiraling toward third baseman Alberto Callaspo.
Blame can be spread around, but Machado’s actions over the weekend were curious, to say the least.
I agree with manager Buck Showalter’s assertion that Machado’s beef with Donaldson was related to his knee surgery. He lost his balance trying to avoid the tag and fell backward. Can you blame him for perhaps flashing back to Tropicana Field last September?
It looked like a clean tag to me. I’ve seen the replay many times. But Machado interpreted it differently. He was much closer to Donaldson than anyone in the press box.
Abad was trying to hit Machado. It couldn’t have been more obvious. And the first pitch came dangerously close to Machado’s left knee. Again, it had to be unsettling for him.
(If Major League Baseball wants to implement another rule in 2015, I have a suggestion: If a pitcher can’t hit a batter on his first attempt, give it up. Abad went 0-for-2 yesterday. Does he need a GPS to find Machado? Pull over and ask for directions. I know it’s not a guy thing, but come on.)
Machado swung late at Abad’s second pitch. And by “late,” I mean the ball had pretty much settled in the catcher’s mitt. It may have been on its way back to Abad. So yeah, it was suspicious when the bat suddenly flew out of Machado’s hands.
Showalter limped out of the interview room following the game. He was still hurting from his sprint out of the dugout as the benches and bullpens emptied.
Many fans don’t understand, but Showalter isn’t going to criticize his players in a press conference. He isn’t going to chuck them under the bus or scold them with the cameras and recorders rolling. If he was upset with Machado’s actions - and he wasn’t dialing up 1-800-Flowers in his office - the matter was handled privately. Closed door, open dialogue.
Showalter doesn’t want his players put in harm’s way, which is why he had one word for reliever T.J. McFarland after the ejections. He simply said, “No.” McFarland got the message. He wasn’t going to retaliate.
Machado is being ripped by A’s fans, as you can imagine. Members of the national media aren’t buying his explanation. And he hasn’t garnered much support here in Baltimore, judging by the comments I’ve received on the blog and Twitter.
I’m not sure how Machado should have handled the questions tossed at him by reporters at his locker. Maintain his innocence and risk being called a liar? Say it was intentional and invite a suspension and further backlash? Refuse comment or hide in the trainers room and leave himself open to criticism for ducking the media?
What a mess. And what a shame that Machado, wildly popular in 2013, is now being cast as a villain. It’s an abrupt and unsettling change that hopefully won’t stick throughout the summer.
In case you missed the latest round of balloting for the 2014 All-Star Game, Machado continues to rank third among American League third basemen. Matt Wieters is first among catchers and Nelson Cruz is first among designated hitters.
Adam Jones moved up to fourth among outfielders. Nick Markakis is ninth and David Lough is 15th.
How many fans on this blog punched the circle next to Lough’s name? Just curious.
1. Matt Wieters (Orioles) 1,235,369
2. Brian McCann (Yankees) 827,200
3. Derek Norris (Athletics) 813,053
4. A.J. Pierzynski (Red Sox) 491,709
5. Kurt Suzuki (Twins) 465,202
1. Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) 1,477,420
2. Jose Abreu (White Sox) 845,059
3. Albert Pujols (Angels) 707,924
4. Chris Davis (Orioles) 659,800
5. Mark Teixeira (Yankees) 436,504
1. Robinson Cano (Mariners) 1,111,880
2. Ian Kinsler (Tigers) 887,544
3. Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox) 778,700
4. Brian Dozier (Twins) 488,524
5. Jose Altuve (Astros) 392,416
1. Derek Jeter (Yankees) 1,376,054
2. Alexei Ramirez (White Sox) 1,212,362
3. J.J. Hardy (Orioles) 754,764
4. Jose Reyes (Blue Jays) 536,525
5. Jed Lowrie (Athletics) 401,798
1. Josh Donaldson (Athletics) 1,470,544
2. Evan Longoria (Rays) 729,092
3. Manny Machado (Orioles) 720,761
4. Adrian Beltre (Rangers) 707,952
5. Brett Lawrie (Blue Jays) 469,855
1. Nelson Cruz (Orioles) 1,404,275
2. David Ortiz (Red Sox) 1,036,055
3. Victor Martinez (Tigers) 843,215
4. Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays) 738,107
5. Brandon Moss (Athletics) 480,597
1. Jose Bautista (Blue Jays) 2,135,223
2. Mike Trout (Angels) 1,945,170
3. Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays) 1,096,784
4. Adam Jones (Orioles) 820,336
5. Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees) 813,357
6. Yoenis Cespedes (Athletics) 799,123
7. Michael Brantley (Indians) 720,961
8. Carlos Beltran (Yankees) 712,154
9. Nick Markakis (Orioles) 691,023
10. Torii Hunter (Tigers) 666,116
11. Shin-Soo Choo (Rangers) 532,267
12. Alex Rios (Rangers) 483,151
13. Brett Gardner (Yankees) 453,169
14. Coco Crisp (Athletics) 444,433
15. David Lough (Orioles) 396,085
And finally, veteran reliever Heath Bell opted out of his contract at Triple-A Norfolk over the weekend, according to a team official.
Bell remained in the organization beyond his first opt-out date, but not the second. He was 2-0 with a 4.22 ERA in 10 games.