BALTIMORE — For a few moments on Sunday, it looked like the end might finally be upon us.
Orioles utility man Jace Peterson standing in the on-deck circle to hit for Manny Machado in the bottom of the fourth inning naturally made one wonder if the All-Star shortstop had finally been traded after months of speculation and the ever-changing rumors of recent weeks. Upon seeing Tim Beckham slide over to shortstop and Peterson enter the game in the top of the fifth, reporters began scanning the Baltimore dugout to see if Machado was in the process of hugging his teammates and coaches goodbye.
It proved to be a false alarm as manager Buck Showalter removed the 26-year-old from the game due to the messy infield conditions that followed a 26-minute rain delay. Machado enjoyed the rest of the game from the dugout, wearing a hooded Orioles sweatshirt.
“We know what’s going on, the potential,” Showalter said. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that was all it. My thought on that is what are you telling the other eight people? Obviously, there’s a different situation going on with Manny. That’s just frankly. You all know that. That had a lot to do with it.”
The Orioles were smart to play it safe, but you hope his exit from the 6-5 victory over the Texas Rangers signals an imminent resolution to his immediate future. If Machado competing on an infield exposed to roughly 10 minutes of rain was too risky, the thought of him playing in as many as 10 more second-half games before the July 31 trade deadline sounds just as reckless.
With interview questions having already shifted from hypothetical to reflective without anything officially happening to this point, pulling the trigger on a deal as soon as possible — perhaps before the Orioles resume action in Toronto on Friday — would be what’s best for all parties. Showalter noted how proud he was of his club maintaining its focus with the saga now reaching the diamond, but it’s a band-aid that needs to be ripped away after slowly being peeled over the first 3 1/2 months of a nightmare season.
Showalter said he expects Machado to represent the Orioles in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, but Sunday brought into sharper focus the risk the organization is taking every time his name is written into the lineup. It’s enough to make you wonder how much further executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the organization should go to try to maximize their trade return.
“A month ago, he wouldn’t have come out of the game,” Showalter said. “We know that. You know [that]. You’re smart. I think you know what’s going on.”
Yes, we all know what’s coming as Sunday provided a few moments of what that reality will be like.
Hopefully, it’s much sooner than later for everyone’s sake.