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Observation deck: Manny Machado shows his maturity

Orioles' Manny Machado watches his two-run home run in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Sept. 23, 2015 in Washington.
Orioles' Manny Machado watches his two-run home run in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Sept. 23, 2015 in Washington. (Greg Fiume / Getty Images)

To warn or not to warn: There was some wonderment after Wednesday night's controversial ninth inning at Nationals Park at to why home plate umpire Mark Ripperger did not warn both teams after Jonathan Papelbon threw a pitch close to the head of Manny Machado.

The Washington Nationals closer came back two pitches later with a fastball that hit Machado in the shoulder and earned Papelbon both an ejection and a suspension.

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Would a warning after the first pitch have prevented the second? Who knows, but the umpire is not required to issue a warning after a suspicious pitch and he is empowered to eject the pitcher at any time he feels a pitch was thrown intentionally at a batter.

Baseball has been grappling with this issue for decades and has come up with a set of rules that really don't accomplish much. If all umpires chose to issue a warning only after a hit batsman or a near miss upstairs, it would send the message that the first beanball is free.

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That's why the umpires still are free to judge intent at any time and eject without warning, and that's the way it should be.

Machado's growing pains: Machado was able to hold his temper after he was hit by Papelbon. He reacted angrily at the plate, but walked to first base and let the umpires handle the situation. He also said the right things after the game, albeit with some salty language, about the importance of avoiding any behavior that might cost the team while it's still in the wild-card race.

That was quite in contrast to the dustup last year with the Oakland Athletics that forced Machado to serve a five-game suspension.

He continues to grow as a player and his behavior Wednesday night might be a sign that he is also maturing on another level. He might even be developing into a leader.

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More than playoffs at stake: The Orioles have fought hard to keep their playoff hopes alive as long as possible, but when the postseason becomes mathematically impossible, the club still has something important to achieve this season.

If the Orioles can win more games than they lose the rest of the way, they will notch their fourth straight winning season. Maybe that doesn't sound like much in comparison to a miracle wild-card berth, but it's still meaningful considering where the organization was at the start of this decade.

The Orioles had losing records in 13 straight seasons when Buck Showalter started his first full season as manager. They extended that streak to 14 in 2011, but have finished above .500 every season since and would do well to keep that streak alive.

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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

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