When Manny Machado crumpled to the ground in the seventh inning at Tropicana Field on Monday, I immediately thought of two other Orioles’ scenes.
The first was in old Yankee Stadium on Sept. 20, 2005.
Second baseman Brian Roberts, a first time All-Star, the club’s Most Valuable Oriole and one of the franchise’s rare homegrown stars, was covering first base when he had an ugly, gruesome collision with the Yankees’ Bubba Crosby.
Roberts ended up in a heap on the infield – much like Machado on Monday when his left knee gave out – with a dislocated elbow, torn tendon and torn UCL.
That was the cherry on top of what had to be the worst overall implosion in baseball history. The Orioles were a first-place team in July before Rafael Palmeiro’s positive steroid test, manager Lee Mazzilli’s firing and Miguel Tejada’s B-12 controversy.
When Roberts went down, all of the air was out of the Orioles – especially when there was a reasonable concern that Roberts’ 2006 might be in jeopardy, and maybe his career. (He actually played 138 games the following season and is still playing now).
Roberts was 27 back then. Machado is 21, and his ceiling is much higher. And it’s a knee injury versus an elbow injury. So, definitely, it’s different circumstances.
But I’m not the only one who thought about that day when they saw Machado down on Monday. Roberts did, too.
"Yeah, definitely. That was kind of, I guess, the beginning of my career in a lot of ways that year. And to have [the season] end darn near pretty close to the same time [as Machado’s] with a pretty dramatic injury, I just hurt for him," Roberts said. "You don't want to see it happen to anybody, but when you see what kind of special player he is and special kid he is.
"But, the great part is he is 21 years old. You’ve got to find a bright spot in it as best you can. You hate to hear people say – certainly the injured person hates to hear people say – he'll come back and he'll be fine and this and that. But they're not the ones going through rehab and not the ones dealing with it. So my heart hurts for him."
My second thought went to March at Ed Smith Stadium when 31-year-old infielder Wilson Betemit dropped to the ground while running from first to second. He ended up with a knee ligament tear, missed almost the entire season, and when he came back in late August, wasn’t the same player.
Again, different circumstances. But it looked eerily similar.
We should have a better idea of the timeline and Machado's exact injury after an MRI Tuesday morning. Until then, it is all speculation -- but it doesn't look good, and it's so deflating for a team that has had trouble keeping its stars healthy.
First, they lost top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy to elbow surgery this year. And now this with Machado.
Those are really tough breaks.
On a personal note, Machado and I spoke for several minutes before Monday’s game. I had noticed he seemed to be limping in Sunday’s contest. He said his cleats had been bothering his Achilles tendon and that he's had to ice it several times in recent weeks.
But, overall, he was healthy. He then began talking about how badly he wanted to play all 162 games this year (Monday’s marked No. 156). I asked him if we could record it for a story and the affable Machado said sure.
This is what he said: "That would be great. I'd love to play 162 games. That's my goal and that's what they put me out there to do, go out there every day and show the world I can play and I can grind it out. It’s a long season and to play 162 games in the major leagues at such a young age is a great accomplishment that a lot of people can't say that they've done."
Now, his streak of 207 consecutive games – from his major league debut on Aug. 9, 2012 – will end Tuesday.
Here is hoping he can begin another one next April.