Orioles sign Manny Machado — and now the debate begins

August 17, 2010 | Drew Forrester

The 11th hour nearly became the 12th and final hour for the Orioles last night in their pursuit of #1 draft pick Manny Machado, but the Birds made a last minute deal with Machado and agent Scott Boras and all’s well that ends well.

And it ended well for the Machado/Boras combo — to the tune of $5.25 million to put his name on the bottom of the contract.  It also ended well for the Orioles, who would have faced great scrutiny and, perhaps, even more criticism had they allowed Machado to remain unsigned, thereby losing the rights to him.

Everyone got what they wanted.

Machado got paid even though he’s never done anything – which happened a lot around baseball yesterday – and the Orioles forked over enough money to show that they aren’t going to let a million or so dollars get in the way of progress.

Let’s hope they won’t let $90 million get in the way of their pursuit of Carl Crawford this off-season.  I assume it will.  But that’s a story for November.

Today, we celebrate the fact that the Orioles came through in the final moments and signed Machado. While they were in a no-win position (lose him and you’re not willing to do what it takes to win — sign him and you absolutely pay more for him than you feel he’s worth), losing out on Machado would have been far more damaging than signing him and watching him turn into Manny Alexander instead of Hanley Ramirez.

Personally, I don’t think signing kids right out of high school is smart.  But that’s not me making a judgment on the Orioles and their drafting of Machado, because lots of major league teams take high school players.  That’s me making judgment on kids who haven’t made a car payment in their life.  A lot can go wrong with an 18-year old.  Depending on their upbringing, it might take until age 18 for a young boy or girl to discover such unique things as…sex…rock-n-roll music…marijuana…staying out late…alcohol…and the rest of that stuff you did when you were younger and didn’t know about the real world and mortgages and cable TV bills and health insurance premiums.

I would hope $5.25 million worth of found money would keep someone like Machado from wrecking himself and setting fire to that investment the Orioles made in him.  But kids will be kids.  Just ask Maurice Clarett.

It’s a slippery slope indeed when you write a young man a check for $5.25 million and he’s never swung at a pitch in anger in his life.  It’s also that way in college football or college basketball, but the level of play at the intercollegiate closely rivals that of the pro game.

High school baseball, even at its highest level, is a juiced up version of really good Little League and nothing more.

For OUR sake, in Baltimore, we need Machado to be the real deal so he can replace Cesar Izturis in a few years.  Most draftniks have Machado not being major league ready until AT LEAST 2014.  That’s a lot of Cesar hitting .241.  Too much, if you ask me.  And as we’ve seen with the likes of Josh Bell, tearing it up at AAA and coming north to Baltimore and lighting it up in the majors are two different things.  Only  the band “When in Rome” had less hits than Bell.  But if Machado fulfills his A-Rod-Lite comparisons, we’ll all be thrilled to death when he shows up in a few years and starts replicating #13 in both style and substance.

Let’s hope Machado doesn’t pick up on that “other” A-Rod habit…if you know what I mean.

Giving a high school kid $5.25 million.  Right thing to do?  Wrong thing to do?

We won’t know for three years or more.

By then, that money will be spent.

Let’s hope the kid is worth it.