MINNEAPOLIS - His destination unknown while the center of major trade talks with several teams, Orioles shortstop Manny Machado at least can be sure that he’s starting for the American League in the upcoming All-Star Game in D.C.
Machado received the most votes (1,740,645) among AL shortstops, his position in 2018 following J.J. Hardy’s departure from the Orioles, and will appear in his fourth All-Star Game in seven major league seasons. He was a reserve third baseman in 2013 and 2015 and started in 2016.
“It was definitely a surprise,” he said. “Very humbled. Amazing that I got voted in by the fans to be the starting shortstop this year in the American League. I feel like it was my first All-Star Game selection. I can’t thank the fans enough for voting and making this come true.”
Having it happen at a new position - at least at the major league level - enhanced the sense of pride.
“Oh, definitely,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it going into the season. Obviously, I wanted to be an All-Star, but to get the privilege to start the game and get voted in by the fans takes it above and beyond. At the end of the day, the other guys that were in this, as well, could have easily been a starter. (Carlos) Correa, Didi (Gregorius), (Jean) Segura, we’re all doing big things this year overall, so to be starting, I’m truly humbled.
“Again, I just want to thank the fans for voting and for making this all come true.”
No other Oriole placed first in balloting and none were expected to be taken as a reserve. Machado stands alone, as he so often has done for the Orioles this season while they’re on pace for the worst record in franchise history.
“It’s tough. It’s very tough,” he said. “It’s not easy going out there, being a winning team the last six years or being in contention, fighting for a playoff spot every year, and then this year it’s kind of been the opposite. So it’s been kind of hard and everything’s a little different, but we try to not think about those things and try to go out there and try to play baseball as us, as players, as teammates, and unfortunately things haven’t been going right for a lot of people.
“Things haven’t been going the way we wanted it to, but at the end, we’ve got to go out there and do everything possible to try to win games and put yourself in good situations.”
Machado has done so while bombarded with questions about his pending free agency and fully aware that a trade could go down any minute. The Dodger and Diamondbacks are regarded as the favorites, but the list also includes the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, Cubs and Indians.
None of it has been a distraction for Machado’s who’s batting .313/.382/.560 with 19 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs and 60 RBIs in 88 games.
“Just separating it,” he said. “Once I step in here, obviously we’re big-time people. People like talking about us. We need to stand in front of media and answer all these questions, so obviously I just try to answer them as soon as I get to the field and once I answer them, cut it all off and get ready for a game. Do my routine, try to get ready for a game, do everything possible to be ready once I step between those lines.
“Those are the only things we can control at the end of the day and that’s how I’ve been trying to see it. Just try to be better every day and try to leave it all on the field.”
Offers are pouring in for Machado and he’s braced for the inevitable, that the team that drafted and developed him and brought him to the majors in the summer of 2012 could relinquish him before July 17.
“Yeah, there’s still a week,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talks and a lot of things going on, but who knows what will happen at the end of the day? I haven’t heard anything. I’ll probably be the last to hear, but things could change or I could probably stay here for a lot longer, for more than a couple weeks to come. But who knows?
“I’m just blessed and happy that I got selected to be a starter and I can continue to do my job here as an Oriole and try to win some more games before I leave, just try to enjoy every moment I can with my teammates and just try to take this season as it is.”
Representing the Orioles at Nationals Park is especially important to Machado, who can take his swings, field ground balls and still wax nostalgic.
“Every jersey I’ve put on has been an Oriole,” he said. “I’ve performed this year as an Oriole. I’ve done everything possible to work hard. The organization gave me the opportunity to go back to shortstop and play my natural position. For me to put that jersey on, like I said before, it will be like the first time that I was selected for the All-Star Game.
“I started one at third, now I’m starting one at short. It’s just reeling through my mind. I didn’t think I would get it. The fans kind of, I guess, appreciated the way I’ve been playing and I appreciate everything they’ve done. So, hopefully I put on that jersey and if not, I’m always going to be grateful no matter what.”
The Orioles are reduced to having only one representative in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive year, with second baseman Jonathan Schoop named a reserve in 2017. They had five players in 2016: Machado, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters.
A streak of five consecutive years with multiple players began after Wieters was the lone Oriole in 2011. The club had only one representative in 10 of 11 seasons from 2001-2011.
Machado was excluded last season while batting .230/.296/.445 in the first half. He hit .290/.326/.500 after the break.
A trade before the All-Star Game could leave the Orioles without a player on the AL team. There isn’t a rule requiring that the replacement comes from the same team.
Showalter informed Machado of the final voting results after the former first-round draft pick arrived at Target Field.
“I’m very proud of him. It’s very well-deserved. I was hoping he’d get a few days off, but he won’t,” Showalter said, smiling.
“Manny, we kind of use him a little bit to talk to guys like Jon and some of the other guys (about) how tough it was on Manny in the first half last year. A lot of people forget how far away he was from what we knew he was capable of with the first half of the season he had last year. Manny, you can tell, I think playing shortstop really, I don’t know if it energized, but was really something he really wanted to be good at and this is obvious that a lot of people feel that way. But we’re proud of him.
“He’s been consistent. He’s been engaged since the first day of spring training, not that he hasn’t been before. You can tell that he was on a little mission to be consistent all year this year and I think this is consistent with that. “
Machado went 2-for-3 today in a 10-1 loss to the Twins and needs 32 hits to become the youngest player in club history to reach 1,000. Cal Ripken Jr. holds the current record at 26 years and 296 days.
Machado also is attempting to become the fastest Oriole to 1,000 hits in games played, with Nick Markakis holding the record at 875. Machado appeared in his 851st game this afternoon. Eddie Murray is second at 892.
He may not stay long enough to get there. Better to savor the time and accolades as long as he’s able.
Machado is joined in the starting lineup by outfielders Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge and Mike Trout, first baseman Jose Abreu, second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Jose Ramirez, catcher Wilson Ramos and designated hitter J.D. Martinez.
Former Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis was voted into his first All-Star Game at age 34 and in the last year of his four-year deal with the Braves. Markakis still has a home in the Baltimore area.