Schmuck: Orioles need to preserve the special chemistry of Machado and Schoop

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In the aftermath of the midnight madness that was Friday's 13-inning game between the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, manager Buck Showalter reflected on Jonathan Schoop's walk-off double and Manny Machado's hell-bent sprint from first base to home plate.

Obviously, Machado wanted to win the game and maybe get a few more hours of sleep, but Showalter has been around these two long enough to know there was more to it than that.


"I was thinking to myself when Jon hit that ball, how much Manny did not want to not score," Showalter said. "It was like, 'Oh my God, Jon's going to kill me if I don't score on this ball.'"

The personal friendship between them is also a prideful competition that clearly keeps them both having fun and staying focused. It has created an on-field chemistry that means so much to the team, that the Orioles need to redouble their efforts to make sure it extends beyond next season.


That's when Machado becomes eligible for free agency and we get to find out if the wild predictions about his market value come true. It's also the point when the realistic possibility of the Orioles re-signing him probably evaporates.

It's not just about Machado, of course, but his time under club control is shorter than Schoop's, so his contract situation really is critical to keeping them together.

Let's not fool ourselves. Schoop is making his own case for a huge contract after he holds up the club in salary arbitration the next two offseasons. He's having a career year and — if things go well for the Orioles over the next four weeks — he'll be in the conversation for American League MVP.

The possibility exists that the proverbial ship has already sailed on long-term extensions for both of them, unless ownership is willing to move into a whole new economic realm.

Owner Peter Angelos already went way past his earlier payroll boundaries when he re-signed Chris Davis to a $161 million contract, but Machado will be in a whole new zip code and — if the team waits too long — Schoop might be, too.

Schoop demurred when the MVP possibility was presented to him after he won Friday night's marathon.

"I don't think about those types of things," he said. "I just want to contribute to my team, do whatever I can do for us to win, whatever I can do to put us in the playoffs. That's all that matters. It doesn't matter if you're MVP [if] you're at home and watching the games. Playoffs are fun. I want to do my best. I want to be better than I was last year. I want to contribute to my team, and whatever happens, we're going to see."

He also downplays his relationship with Machado in deference to his other teammates, though everybody in the ballpark can see how their personal chemistry translates into on-field success on an almost nightly basis.


"It's fun," Schoop said."Every time you win, it's fun and especially on this team, everybody likes each other. Everybody is pulling for each other, and everybody wants each other to do good. Tim [Beckham] gets on base, Tim, Manny, me, all those guys from one to nine are contributing. It's all of us. Everybody does the job. That's why we win."

Maybe, but the rest of the guys aren't trading moon shots night after night in a too-close-to-call home run competition that stood at 30-30 going into Saturday night's rain-endangered third game of the four-game series against the Blue Jays.

While Schoop and Machado interact with all their teammates with the same kind of passion, they long ago developed a unique way of celebrating with each other after either knocks one out of the park.

The old-school Showalter might not have thought much of that at an earlier stage in his managerial career, but he has no problem with it now because he sees how it benefits his team.

"It's a good lesson to all of us to let guys be themselves," Showalter said. "And it's also a way they relieve some of the pressure. I think it's important to players to have that. I don't know how they can remember all the stuff they're supposed to do … but you've got to have some of those releases."

Showalter steers clear of the contract speculation, though it's not hard to divine how he feels about both players and what it might mean to the team to lose one or both of them.


"I've been watching close, because I think Manny wanted so bad to drive in 100 runs last year that he kind of got out of himself a little bit, and he knows it," Showalter said. "But he's got a partner in crime now, so to speak.

"As long as they let it happen in the flow of the game and they're both trying to do it because the club needs it. And they both hold themselves to a high standard defensively. They put the same pride in their defense as they do in their offense, and that's been big for us."

It will continue to be for at least one more year, unless the front office decides that it cannot re-sign Machado and deals him this winter.

That would be a mistake. The Orioles should move decisively as soon as the season is over to make a serious pitch for both players, unless they want to see them both wearing pinstripes in a couple of years.