After the series he had against Oakland, it’d be too easy to sit here and say Manny Machado is immature and needs to grow up. But Manny Machado is immature and probably needs to grow up.
Machado’s interesting weekend started in the third inning Friday. He was standing at second with two outs when Adam Jones grounded to third baseman Josh Donaldson. Instead of just throwing to first for the out, Donaldson elected to go for the tag on Machado. Donaldson slapped a tag on Machado’s chest and Machado tried to dance out of the way, causing Machado’s momentum to carry him to the ground. As Machado fell, he flung his helmet at the feet of Donaldson.
Apparently, Machado thought Donaldson was unnecessarily rough with the tag. As he got up and started yelling at Donaldson, you can see the Oakland third baseman laugh incredulously and say, “Are you kidding me?”
Benches cleared, Machado was pulled away, and for some reason, Donaldson was hit later in the game by Wei-Yin Chen.
Normally, that would be the end of your pretty standard petty baseball beef. But things flared up again Sunday.
That’s when Machado accidentally clipped Oakland catcher Derek Norris a couple times with his backswing, seemingly smirking a bit after he did it. The lack of contrition seemed to put the A’s back on edge after the events of Friday night.
When Machado stepped back into the batter’s box in the 8th inning with the game well out of hand, Oakland decided they were going to try to teach the 21-year-old Machado a lesson. Fernando Abad’s first pitch to Machado was zipped past Machado’s surgically-repaired knee and sailed to the backstop. Machado responded by staring Abad down before stepping back into the box. When the next pitch was in the same exact location, Machado “swung” late and the bat “slipped” out of his hands and sailed into the field of play.
When Stephen Vogt got in Machado’s face, Machado claimed the bat slipped out of his hands — a claim he made again to reporters after the game. Larry Vanover didn’t buy it, though, and tossed Machado. It doesn’t really matter what Machado says — if the league believes he threw the bat intentionally, he’ll be suspended like Trot Nixon was following a similar incident in 2002.
With the influx of incredibly young stars in the game, there’s been a lot of griping about the immaturity and “lack of respect” they show. The likes of Yasiel Puig and Bryce Harper draw a lot of criticism, but they flip bats and generally show their fire when they do something good. For the most part, the worst they do is make the opponent even more frustrated when they beat them.
Machado’s actions over the weekend weren’t just childish, they were dangerous. He overreacted on Friday and nearly started a fight over a routine baseball play. And while he was understandably upset about being thrown at on Sunday, he overreacted again when he flung his bat into the field of play.
A year ago, Machado was a bit of a golden boy as an MVP candidate and one of the faces of Baltimore’s revival. Now, after a bad weekend, he’s in danger of being labeled a hothead.
Even worse than that: opponents know they can get inside his head and get him thrown out of a game if they poke him long enough. That’s when maturity questions are legitimate — not when players are showing off and flipping bats, but when they’re losing their composure and doing things to get themselves suspended. As one of the more important players in Baltimore’s lineup, that’s where Machado needs to do some growing up.