Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks about the pitching difficulties Chris Tillman had against the Boston Red Sox as well as the hitting difficulties the team had during the series. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
Toward the end of his best offensive season and an American League MVP candidacy, Manny Machado was humbled to be selected this year's Most Valuable Oriole. But before Friday's series opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Machado said he'd prefer to help the Orioles reach the postseason over any personal accolades.
"The only thing that matters to me is trying to take this thing to the playoffs, trying to get to the playoffs and roll the dice at the end of the day come October," Machado said. "We've got [nine] more games, however many more innings, and I don't know how many more outs, but those are the things that matter right now."
Machado was named Most Valuable Oriole, an annual award chosen by a vote of local media who cover the team, for the first time in his career. The award comes at a time when both Machado and the Orioles are struggling.
Machado hit .222/.271/.370 in his 14 games before Friday, and after the Orioles were swept by the Boston Red Sox in a four-game home series, they entered Friday a half-game behind the Detroit Tigers for the second wild-card spot.
"At the end of the day, none of this really matters unless we get to where we need to be," Machado said. "We're in a tough spot right now. We've still got a couple more games in September. We're going to keep fighting. I think we're going to keep fighting until the end, and hopefully the most important thing is we make that last wild-card spot and flip a coin to see who makes the World Series."
Despite his recent slump, Machado has continued his progression into one of the game's best players. The 24-year-old is enjoying the best offensive season of his career, entering Friday's game hitting .300/.350/.546 while setting new career highs in homers (36), RBIs (93) and runs scored (103).
"It's always an honor," Machado said. "It's something that's humbling. I see it more as a team thing. The team gave me the opportunity to put up the numbers that I had, and have the great season that we all had. If it's going to go to someone, I think it should go to everyone. Because at the end of the day, we all battled out there. if it wasn't for each other, none of us would have the opportunity we have now and the year that we're having so far."
Machado, who has been an AL MVP candidate throughout this season, racked up 6.7 wins above replacement in his first 148 games to tie for sixth in the majors. He will be a front runner to win his third career Gold Glove, currently leading all AL third baseman with a 2.1 defensive WAR.
"I think he knows defensively what he means, the importance, and now if he takes off a defensive play, the implications of what that means," center fielder Adam Jones said. "I don't know his metrics. I don't really care about metrics. But to see him day in and day out, he helps our pitching staff.
"… My whole thing is, how is he able to be so accurate throwing from so many slots and uncomfortable positions, but he puts the ball right on the money? To me, he and [Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan] Arenado are one and two as the best in the game because of what they do, not just offensively but how they take so many runs away defensively."
Machado will be presented with the award in an on-field ceremony before the team's final regular-season home game Sunday. Other players who received votes were Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Chris Davis, Jones, Chris Tillman and Mark Trumbo. Voting was done on a 5-3-1 point system.
"We have a lot of people you could consider," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I'm sure you all did. Manny is very deserving of that consideration and being named, but he'd be the first to tell you that there are some other people there, too, that whoever voted on it considered. At the end of the year, if we have to name somebody and separate people, so be it. There were a lot of good choices there and he's one of them."