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Schmuck: Machado-Pedroia 'controversy' not worthy of the attention it's getting

Maybe Manny Machado has earned a little extra scrutiny whenever he's involved in a controversial game situation … or maybe it's just that in the generally benign world of Major League Baseball a good controversy is simply too hard to pass up.

Machado has a history, so it obviously was easy for some members of the New England media to cast him as a villain after his hard slide Friday night knocked Boston Red Sox veteran Dustin Pedroia out of the game and also out of Saturday night's lineup.

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Everyone remembers the notorious bat-throwing incident against the Oakland Athletics that got Machado suspended five games in 2014 and the fight last year with late Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura. Nothing that happened Friday night fits in that narrative, but it's too easy to connect those dots in the internet age.

The incident caused a minor media frenzy in Boston, though Machado insisted he did not spike Pedroia intentionally. And the replay clearly showed he was so concerned about his injured opponent that he left the base and allowed himself to be tagged out while he tried to come to Pedroia's aid.

It also prompted a predictably angry response from Red Sox manager John Farrell, whose team was banged up to begin with. But Pedroia — the consummate gamer — seemed to take the whole unfortunate situation pretty much in stride.

"I'm pissed we lost the game," Pedroia said Friday night. "My job is to get taken out and hang in there and turn double plays. That's how you win games. I'm not mad. I'm mad we lost the game. We didn't score any runs. That's what I'm mad about."

Pedroia, whose status is day-to-day, was asked again about his feelings Saturday and again indicated he was not carrying a grudge.

"This isn't seventh grade, man. You know what I mean?" Pedroia said. "I just play baseball. That's it. I care about our guys. I don't care about anybody else. So we just play the game."

Whether it all ended there remained to be seen. Many Red Sox players stayed at the dugout railing at the end of Friday's game, staring bullets at the Orioles as they shook hands with each other instead of the usual practice of picking up their equipment and heading to the visitors' clubhouse. It did not go unnoticed.

Saturday night's game featured a couple of hit batsmen – Jonathan Schoop for the Orioles and Marco Hernandez for the Red Sox. But the closeness of the game in the late innings removed suspicion that either was intentional. There was also a moment when Schoop slid under Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, but the World Baseball Classic teammates popped up and hugged after the play.

Machado did his best to make everything right after Friday's game, texting Pedroia to see if he was OK and telling reporters that he has great respect for the Red Sox star and would never want to do anything to injure him.

But the reaction of the Red Sox at game's end rankled some of Machado's teammates, who grumbled about it privately. And the calls for retaliation by some members of the Boston media drew a sharp response from Orioles manager Buck Showalter during his pregame news conference Saturday.

"Not real impressed with some people in the media calling for somebody to be thrown at," Showalter said. "I don't think that really fits their job description. But that's their choice, how they choose to do their job. It's the world we live in."

Machado has grown up a lot since the bat-throwing incident. He appears much better able to grasp the impact of his actions both on the field and off and reflected that in his conciliatory postgame comments Friday night. Still, the proof may be in his reaction if something happens that can be construed as payback before the end of the Red Sox series.

"I don't expect anything," Machado said Friday night. "I'm going to play baseball. What happens, happens. It's called baseball. We play [between] the lines. They've got to protect their players. They've got to do what they've got to do on their side. It's up to them."

Showalter pointed out that there always are two perspectives in this kind of situation. The Orioles weren't too thrilled when Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval took out Jonathan Schoop with a hard slide in 2015 and might have contributed to a knee injury that put him on the shelf for 21/2 months.

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"Understand, I look at things through Oriole glasses, orange and black," Showalter said. "They look at it through theirs. I understand their feelings, but I also understand ours."

As for the possibility of retaliation, Showalter said that he no longer has time for the macho staff that gets more players hurt.

"I'm in a job where, I have to, when things get emotional and things get like this, I have to step back," he said. "I do have the safety of some human beings I have to think about. I've said many times, when people talk about throwing [at hitters] and stuff, how are you going to feel when you're standing at home plate and some guy got hit in the head and there's blood coming out of his ears? Do you really feel that manly making that decision?"

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Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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