Quick, someone tell Manny Machado that dirty and lazy is no way to go through baseball.
That’s especially true when you’re going to ask teams, such as the Cubs, for hundreds of millions of dollars in free agency.
If the last two games of the NL Championship Series are an indication, Machado could be a bad, or at least an aggravating, $300 million investment.
In the 10th inning of Game 4 of the NLCS on Tuesday, Machado cracked a grounder to short and ran down the line. He was thrown out easily. But no matter. Instead of stepping on the base, Machado intentionally kicked the right foot of Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar.
There was no reason for it. It’s a routine baseball play that players go out of their way not to aggravate, even though the target of a first baseman’s foot is vulnerable every time. So, it’s an idiot move aimed only at creating an injury, and it follows Machado’s being called out the day before for illegal slides at second base.
After Tuesday’s incident, Aguilar had something to say to Machado. Machado had something to say back. The benches emptied. No punches were thrown, although shots were taken after the Dodgers won in 13 innings.
Brewers infielder Travis Shaw echoed Yelich’s view that it was “a dirty play.”
When asked if Machado had gone past the line of playing hard, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, “I don’t think he’s playing all that hard.”
And that might be the biggest issue for the Cubs and their fans. They might like the idea that Machado would come to Wrigley Field pre-hated by the best team in the division, but you might come to hate Machado, too. You and Joe Maddon, and here’s why:
Machado doesn’t Respect 90.
Yes, he has a world of talent – at least 33 homers each of the last four seasons with a slugging percentage over .500 in that span — but he has a recurring issue regarding hustle.
Earlier in the NLCS, on another shot to short, Machado flat didn’t run out of the box.
It was noticed back in Baltimore, where Machado used to play and apparently made a habit of it, if this tweet from former Orioles great and current broadcaster Jim Palmer is any indication: “Once again Manny doesn’t run hard. Down 0-1 in series , 0-0 game in 4th. Too tired to run hard for 90 feet. But wants the big $$ #pathetic @masnOrioles”
When asked by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal about his diva act on that play, Machado didn’t have much of an answer, nor did he express much urgency in changing his ways.
“I’ve been thinking about it and it happens every time, there’s no excuse for it honestly,’’ Machado said. “I’ve never given excuses for not running. I’m not hurt, there’s no excuse but I’ve been the same player … I’ve been doing this for eight years, I’m in ‘The Show’ for eight years, I’ve done the same thing for eight years, I’ve been the same player. (note: Machado actually just completed his seventh season.)
“Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.’’
He’s not going to be “Johnny Hustle.’’ Fine example there. In seven seasons, he hasn’t found the need to hustle all the time. Nice message there. Hustle is the most expected part of the game, other than a Tyler Chatwood walk, I mean.
The suddenly neutered Cubs need the kind of power Manny Machado would bring, but this is a team coming off the sting of team baseball president Theo Epstein calling out players for a lack of urgency and demanding it every inning. And the big-money free agent they’d sign can’t even Respect 90?
And the big free agent they’d sign would be a guy who can’t trouble himself to run to first base?
And when he does run the bases, he has a rap sheet.
That would be some $300 million bet for the Cubs: They’d either change an unrepentant Machado or make Epstein look like a clown with his demand for urgency in every inning of every game.