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Schmuck: Orioles' Manny Machado the only winner to emerge from past week's shenanigans

If you're trying to sort out winners and losers after the two-week feud between the Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, it's really not that complicated.

There was only one winner, and we'll get to him in a moment.

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There were plenty of losers, starting with the Red Sox. They went into full organizational damage control after some fans at Fenway Park hurled racial epithets at center fielder Adam Jones on Monday night, but seemed to be OK with their pitching staff trying to either brain or kneecap Manny Machado.

Reliever Matt Barnes lost four games when he was suspended for throwing behind Machado's head in the finale of the three-game series in Baltimore on April 23. And while Sox ace Chris Sale said he wasn't going to "lose any sleep" after Machado ripped him publicly for the purpose pitch that came dangerously close to Machado's surgically repaired knees Tuesday, he certainly lost a few thousand dollars in fines and came off looking like a total jerk on national television.

The Orioles rotation certainly didn't come out on top either after Kevin Gausman was thrown out of the game in the second inning Wednesday night, which probably lost the O's that game and screwed up their pitching plans for several days.

More losers: Major League Baseball and an umpiring crew that embarrassed itself by letting Sale stay in the game after his obvious attempt to hurt or intimidate Machado, and then ejecting Gausman for a 76 mph breaking ball that could not possibly have been intentional.

Which brings us back to the big winner in all of this, and it should not surprise anyone that it is the guy who was dodging those malevolent fastballs. The young superstar who stared down Barnes and Sale and absorbed four nights of Fenway fan abuse kept his cool and hammered three long home runs during the series to prove that the best revenge really is living well.

Machado didn't just have the last word in Boston with his game-changing three-run homer Thursday night. He gave his image a makeover in front of that national audience and raised his hypothetical stock as he inches toward free agency after the 2018 season.

Remember when everyone was predicting that he might get $300 million or more. Well, that was back when he was the bat-throwing bad boy of Baltimore. He just showed that he can not only hold his temper, but is the type of player who can channel that anger and energy into a positive result for his team.

He played magnificent defense, directly punished every pitcher that threw the ball close to him and displayed his dismay at the treatment he got by taking a couple of slow rides around the bases.

OK, he did make SportsCenter with that nasty tirade late Tuesday night, but it was hard to argue with anything he said that wasn't an expletive. He spent two weeks getting vilified and attacked for what even MLB czar of discipline Joe Torre said unequivocally was a legal slide that injured popular Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

The Red Sox and their fans probably weren't impressed, but Machado's manager and teammates certainly were.

"Not many people can put themselves in Manny's shoes," manager Buck Showlater said. "The people who are critiquing him, they haven't stood in a batter's box and have a guy throw 96 miles per hour at your head. I'm amazed at what he is able to do on the field with what he had to deal with.

"He showed a lot of maturity, and I gotta tell you, I'm not sure I could have done it."

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop watched his close friend get dragged through the dirt and come out clean.

"I think he handled it pretty good," Schoop said. "You see what's going on, and he handled it pretty good. That's part of baseball."

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It won't go unnoticed when the Orioles and other teams start seriously considering what Machado is worth long term. He has gone a long way toward answering any question about his maturity and character.

"Maturity is a big part of this game — physically, emotionally, whatever. It's always a big part of the game," reliever Brad Brach said. "To see the way he handled the whole thing, it was pretty ridiculous. It seemed like whatever happened, they were going at him for whatever reason. I think the best way to get 'em back is what he did — hit those three homers, especially that big one that he put up [Thursday].

"Obviously, whatever happened happened, and I think the way he went out there and kind of held his emotions in check and just put it out on the field and pretty much carried us through the series, it shows where he's come. It's exciting to see."

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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

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