Orioles third baseman Manny Machado knows he has a long way before he even thinks about matching Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive-games streak. But not only is Machado the only player in the majors to play in every game this season, he owns baseball’s longest active consecutive-games streak entering Thursday’s series finale in Kansas City.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Machado’s 126 consecutive games played stands as the longest active streak. No player in the major leagues other than Machado can play in all 162 games this season. That has been Machado’s goal since spring training. Despite his place as one of the game’s best young players, he has yet to play a full major league season after his past two years were cut short because of season-ending surgeries to each of his knees.
“I think one of my main goals going into this season was to try to play as many games as I possibly can,” Machado said. “Injuries always happen, that’s a part of the game, but that’s a great accomplishment that so far it’s been going great. I’ve been playing every day. I’ve been healthy.”
Entering Thursday, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun (117 games) owns the second-longest active streak and Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is third with 103 straight games played, according to Elias.
San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence’s 383-game streak -- formerly the longest active consecutive-games streak -- ended when he opened this season on the disabled list. Texas Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder has the longest recent consecutive-games streak when he played in 547 straight games from 2010 to 2014.
Machado said he learned quickly the importance of finding a way to play every day through the grind of a 162-game season. In 2013, the Orioles had four players -- Adam Jones (160), Nick Markakis (160), Chris Davis (160) and J.J. Hardy (159) -- who played at least 159 games. Machado would have been in that group as well. He played in all 156 games until suffering a left knee injury.
“I think it’s made me mentally stronger, being able to go out there and perform every day,” Machado said. “You learn from guys like J.J. who go out there and play and guys like Jonesy, who gives it his all every time. I know he was hurt earlier in the year, but I know he’d be up there with me because he’s that type of player.
"It’s good to have those type of guys on your team to look up to and kind of follow. It makes it easier to go out there and grind every day. This is a family here. We’re trying to make the playoffs, we’re trying to be successful here, so to have guys like that by your side going to war with you, it makes it a lot easier.”
When told about his streak, Machado already knew that Jones had a lengthy consecutive-games streak -- he played in 322 straight games, playing in every regular season game from Sept. 26, 2011, to Sept. 24, 2013.
“It’s important,” Machado said. “How I look at it is you might be in a slump or you might be hot, it doesn’t matter. But just going out there every day gives you the opportunity to do something to help your team win. It might be a day when you’re not feeling well, but you have the opportunity to do something for the team or you’re out there and you make that one play that makes a difference.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter hasn’t ruled out letting Machado play all 162 games this season. He said it could be an important accomplishment for Machado’s career.
“He’s taking good care of himself,” Showalter said. “His knees are stronger than they were before the surgery. … I think it’s a good learning experience for him because he’s going to be a guy who is going to play every day in his career, just about the discipline it’s going to require, especially if he’s not physically able to do [what he used to] when he’s 30 years old.
“It’s kind of like getting 200 innings for a pitcher. Once you get that behind you, you know you can do it, I know there’s a confidence. … You can go home and say you can do this. It reminds you what you had to go to get there. Manny had a big offseason. I could see early in the spring that there were no physical issues with him.”
As for passing Ripken -- who owns the game’s longest consecutive-games streak at 2,632 straight games -- Machado knows he’s a long way off from being in that conversation.
“I’ve got 20 years for that,” he said with a smile. “I don’t think anyone’s going to break that, not in this generation. Maybe in the next one. It’s just hard. There’s a lot more injuries now. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a record that’s going to be hard to beat. Everybody’s bringing it every day. I’m not saying they didn’t back in the day, but it’s just a lot harder.”