Maybe it’s a maturity thing; or maybe it’s just a new type of Manny being Manny situation.
Since making his debut in 2012, Manny Machado has been the golden child of the Baltimore sports scene. Over the last three days, he’s made a strong bid for newly anointed prodigal son.
Until this point in his young career, questions surrounding the budding superstar were centered upon whether or not he’s more gifted than Ripken or more fluid than Robinson. In the wake of his weekend-long mental-meltdown, the questions have more to do with his level or maturity and his makeup as a young man.
Certainly not the type of debate and national backlash that anyone in Baltimore–outside of perhaps, Buck Showalter–was prepared to defend.
Showalter’s defense of Machado’s actions, especially his statement about Machado “handling it better than someone with experience,” is laughable at best, pitiful at worst. But that’s a debate for another day. Today, right now, Machado is center stage–and he will be for the next few days, as Major League Baseball is likely to suspend him for multiple games after reviewing his weekend conduct.
Let’s digress, though
Maybe Saturday’s mini-meltdown at the plate, after being called out on strikes was due to the fact that Machado’s coping skills are late to the develop, given the fact that he’s a mere 21-years-and-11-months old. But how to you explain the multiple smacks to A’s catcher Derek Norris’ head?. Perhaps Friday night’s incident, when Machado felt he was improperly tagged too roughly by his third base counterpart, Josh Donaldson, was an overreaction from a young and fiery alpha male who just can’t control his own competitiveness.
Let’s be honest here–what kind of upstanding human being pops another in the head with a bat and doesn’t so much as glance to see if he’s conscious, angry, happy, or dead?
What kind of person actually cracks a smile at the possibility of injuring a fellow competitor? And, if your answer to those few questions is rooted in a semblance of decency, you have to ask yourself, what kind of player–more importantly–what kind of person is Manny Machado?
After nearly being hit by A’s pitcher Fernando Abad in the 8th inning on Sunday, Machado decided to retaliate on the ensuing pitch. It’s one thing to charge the mound and posture a bit, it’s another to send a nearly three-foot piece of solid lumber dangerously and violently tomahawking through the air.
Some die-hard Orioles’ fans, blinded by the brightness of Machado’s ability and value to the franchise and the city’s sports realm, will buy the “it slipped” excuse. But to anyone with a half-shred of common sense, it only takes one review of the highlight reel to reveal that the bat-fling was certainly not a result of poorly applied pine tar.
Since Friday night’s run-in with Donaldson, Machado had an agenda. He wanted to cause problems in the name of revenge and retaliation; he had the malicious desire to inflict pain no matter what the severity of potential collateral damage. Alas, the only damage he did was to himself.
A current Google search of “Manny Machado” will feature descriptions laced with words like “punk” and “thug.” Message boards on blogs are calling for his suspension and referring to him in terms that aren’t becoming of one of Major League Baseball’s brightest commodities. Sports fans have lost respect for a player who barely had enough time to even earn it in the first place.
Perhaps that’s just it. In Baltimore, it’s been easy to fall in love with the idea of Manny Machado.
Flashy glove, steady bat, rock-solid fundamentals and instincts to go along with a clean-cut and boyish look–Machado has it all, at least from a physical standpoint. But the measure of a man and of Baltimore’s own newly-maligned national public enemy, is-and-always-will-be, rooted in character and the maturity to act like a man and carry on like a pro.
For now Machado is still a star. He’ll have chances to fix the faults we’ve witnessed over the past three days. One way or the other in the coming months and years, Manny is going to be Manny–and for now, there’s no clear-cut answer to what that actually means.
Please follow me at @TonyWizTweets