Fort Myers, Fla. — It’s good to see that — $300 million later — Manny Machado is still being Manny.
My favorite man-child just took a big shot at the Orioles, the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland in a recent Sports Illustrated interview that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been around him for the past six years.
That is not meant to be an insult. I like Manny and love what he takes onto the field. He was generally cooperative with the media in Baltimore and his former teammates said nothing but nice things about him when he was traded to the Dodgers last July and when he signed that huge contract last week.
He also said all the right things when he headed out of town, which is why that comment in the SI interview may confirm the suspicion for some that he suffers from a serious sincerity shortage, but that’s only part of it.
Machado is a product of his environment, and I’m not talking about where he grew up or who he hangs out with in the offseason. It is the environment populated only by people who know what it’s like to think that seven years at $30 million per year is an insulting contract offer. It’s an environment where handlers hover around you and tell you what to say and when to say it.
For Machado, that has created a strange internal dynamic where the good Manny generally is in control of the impulse to tell you what he really thinks, but the bad Manny sometimes breaks out and tells you how he really feels.
So, he could tell us all in July how much he owes the Orioles for bringing him to the big leagues and wax nostalgic during his first Padres press conference about his former teammates and he probably meant all of it. But he obviously could no longer suppress that feeling deep inside that the Orioles and the city and the fans didn’t love him quite enough.
“The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love,” he told Sports Illustrated. “The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for the state, and they didn’t show me a little bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A. giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them, which is amazing.”
If you’re scratching your head at the illogic of that comment, you’re not alone. The Dodgers did give up a lot to rent Machado for a couple of months, but love had nothing to do with it. They loved what they thought he would bring to the postseason, but they obviously didn‘t love him enough to make a big effort to sign him this past winter.
The case can be made that the Orioles showed how much they loved him when they sent him off to the World Series and to make a fortune they could not afford to give him. If they had stretched their small-market budget to accommodate his wishes, they might have doomed him to a long string of losing seasons.
Of course, Machado is guilty of a bit of revisionism. The O’s did make a cursory attempt to sign him to an extension a few years ago, but he and his agents knew what he was going to be worth and there was never a real likelihood that he would stay in Baltimore once he became eligible for free agency.
Most everyone thought he would end up with the Yankees, but he became available right at the time they solidified the left side of their infield for the foreseeable future. He would have looked great in the middle of that lineup, but even the Yankees weren’t going to pay $30 million per year to replace either shortstop Didi Gregorius or terrific 23-year-old third baseman Miguel Andujar, who looks a lot like the next Manny Machado.
Instead, he ended up in San Diego, which could not have been his first choice, though the proof of that won’t be evident until he exercises the five-year opt-out clause in his new contract, signs with the Yankees and tells us at his introductory news conference that he wanted to be there all along.