Manny Machado has been in the headlines throughout the postseason, and for all the wrong reasons. Now, he’s headed to Fenway Park to face the team he probably hates the most.
Who can forget the dust-up with the Red Sox that took place early in the 2017 season, after Machado’s high-cleat slide injured popular second baseman Dustin Pedroia and led to multiple acts of retaliation from the Boston pitcher staff?
Reliever Matt Barnes was suspended for four games for nearly taking Machado’s head off with a fastball that hit Machado on the ear flap in a game at Oriole Park. Nine days later, Red Sox ace Chris Sale threw a fastball behind Machado’s surgically repaired knees at Fenway Park. Sale was not ejected and, after saying he wasn’t “going to lose any sleep over it,” he was fined but not suspended.
This all happened after Pedroia said publicly that Machado’s slide was not a dirty play.
Of course, Machado’s sliding mechanics have come into question during this year’s playoffs. He also has been criticized for a lack of hustle running to first base on what should have been a closer play, kicking the foot of Milwaukee Brewers slugger Jesús Aguilar while running past first base (which emptied the benches) and appearing to grab his crotch in response to booing Brewers fans at Miller Park.
So, the World Series is going to be must-see TV for both Machado fans and Machado haters alike.
Here’s a prediction: Manny will be interviewed for the Game 1 pregame show and say he knows he shouldn’t have done all those things that gained him negative attention during the playoffs, but it won’t make much difference. He has reached the point where just about anything he does that’s even mildly questionable during the next week or so is going to be viewed through an ugly lens.
Though he probably was more victim than villain when he tangled with the Red Sox last year, he has probably earned that.
Sale is starting Game 1, so we will almost certainly be seeing replays of the purpose pitches from the 2017 feud. But Sale has no reason to throw at Machado now and every reason to concentrate on his own performance after missing his ALCS start with an illness.