The Orioles' decision to play hardball and renew the contract of Manny Machado at $519,000 after such a tremendous first full season is not without precedent. In fact, it’s not even a particularly new concept.
The fact that Machado ended up agreeing to the deal and accepting a $100,000 bonus for being named the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award, however, is a much better outcome than what happened in 1982 when the Los Angeles Dodgers renewed pitching phenom Fernando Valenzuela.
Valenzuela was coming off an even more dynamic season than Machado. He had come out of nowhere to open the 1981 season with a string of eight straight victories that included five shutouts. He ended the season with a World Series ring and became the first pitcher ever to be named Rookie of the Year and win the Cy Young Award in the same year.
The Dodgers gave him what, on a percentage basis, was a huge raise. Valenzuela had made $42,500 for his rookie season and the club renewed him at $350,000. But Valenzuela, unlike Machado, didn’t politely give in and sign the contract.
Valenzuela, who was represented by Tony DeMarco and longtime union activist Dick Moss, demanded $1 million and refused to report to spring training. His holdout was the national news of the spring and it threatened his status as the lovable cherub who sparked "Fernandomania" and turned baseball at Dodger Stadium into a festive multicultural experience.
He finally ended the holdout, reported to camp March 24 and would quickly return to the good graces of the fans and the team with a 19-win season. He would be the face of the team for the rest of the decade.
Let’s be clear. Contract renewal is fairly routine. The Orioles renewed a bunch of players this year. Players being "disappointed"about it is fairly universal, too. Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters weren’t happy when they were renewed early in their careers, but both just went about their business and waited for the salary system to shift in their favor.
Machado will do the same, but the Orioles could avoid an annual salary showdown by working out a long-term deal after he returns to the lineup and proves his knee is sound.