A mini-symposium on Manny Machado's defense

The Orioles four All Stars – Chris Davis, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado -- met with the media before Monday’s game.

After talking about their All-Star selections, the group was asked about the 21-year-old Machado’s defense and, specifically, the play he made Sunday in New York in which a grounder kicked off his glove into foul territory. Machado grabbed the ball and, with his momentum taking him six, eight, 10 feet into foul territory, turned and, on his back foot, threw a laser to first for the out. 

The quartet was asked whether that was Machado’s best defensive play as a big leaguer – he joined the club last August – and the press conference turned into a mini-roundtable symposium on Machado’s glove. Here’s the transcript:

Jones: “(Sunday’s play) seems like it just fits in. Like you expect (Machado) to do something every night. He dives -- he’s long, so he catches everything. His range is ridiculous. I’m a spectator from 150 feet away. I see the ball hit towards him and every time I see ball hit on the ground that gets by him I’m looking and wondering, ‘How the hell did this get by him? Because he’s a vacuum over there.’ The amazing part about it is the accuracy. There are tons of people that can catch the ball or knock it down, but the accuracy? He’s on the money. To me that’s the greatest part. When you are rushing balls – I know when I was a shortstop I’d rush it, and some lady in the first row better watch out. That’s the part that gets me the most, is the accuracy. It’s fun to watch, trust me. It’s fun to watch. I know the fans of Baltimore love it, and across baseball, but as a center fielder here I love watching it. He saves us a lot of runs.”

Hardy: “It doesn’t surprise me … We see it happen, it’s kind of something, not that we expect, but we get used to it because he’s done it so much on a regular basis. There’s the plays that you guys see that look unbelievable. And then there’s the plays that just look routine with him, but they’re not. They are tough. So he’s pretty special.”

Machado: “Everybody talks about the play, but nobody talks about the stretch (at first from Chris Davis).”

Davis: “Right?”

Machado: “If he didn’t stretch we wouldn’t have gotten (Luis Cruz) by a foot.”

Davis: “I’m actually sick of seeing him dive and knock all these balls down because I’ve got to run my big butt over to first base and catch the ball that hits you right in the chest every time. When he kind of kicked it yesterday, it was almost like he planned on doing it the way it played out. Like he kicked it up to himself. And as a first baseman you are thinking, ‘OK, he’s off balance. He’s almost in our dugout, be ready for a ball in the dirt.’ And then he hits me in the chest. It just takes all the fun out of it. It’s like, ‘Don’t be scared to throw one in the dirt, let me get a little love or something over there.’  I think Jonesy hit the nail on the head. The accuracy is what is so amazing to me. Not only that he is getting to balls that a lot of guys don’t get to, whether he is laying out, whether he is backhanding it or running away from it. I’ve seen a lot of guys in this game that have a good arm, but not too many guys that have that strong of an arm with that much accuracy. It’s made my job a heck of a lot easier. People actually think I’m actually a good defender again, which is nice.”

Machado on where Sunday’s play ranks for him: “It’s up there. It’s up there. All the plays I make are up there. Like J.J. said, there are some plays that you guys might think are routine, but are actually harder than what it looks. I think every play is up there. I don’t have a favorite, no. I don’t actually. They are all my favorite.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter wasn’t part of that press conference, but here’s what he said later about Machado:
Showalter on Sunday’s play: “I thought the most remarkable part of the play is that he was able to re-grab the ball, I mean, he never got it clean. But a lot of times, it kicks. (Just) being able to get a hand back on it again, moving like that. It’s kind of like, ‘Hmm, he’s gonna throw it too.’ To be accurate, I think, from that arm angle and that distance. I think catching it and re-catching it -- getting control of it after it wasn’t a clean catch -- is pretty hard to do.”

Showalter on Machado’s best play: “I hope it is yet to come. I hope it is that one where he catches the last out in the World Series. That’s the one I am looking for. Kind of like another third baseman (Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson) that was real good over there.”

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