As Manny Machado appealed the five-game suspension he received Tuesday for throwing his bat in Sunday’s game against the Oakland Athletics, the Orioles prepared for life without the third baseman — regardless of whether the punishment is reduced — as well as attempting to make sure a similar incident doesn’t happen again.
Machado said he hopes he can reduce the suspension, which was handed down by Major League Baseball on Tuesday afternoon along with an undisclosed fine, through the appeal process. But it is possible that he could withdraw the appeal before he gets a hearing, which likely would happen next week. Because of the appeal, he played in Tuesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.
“It was coming,” Machado said. “Obviously, I don’t want to be down for five days. I need to try to help this team in any way. We’ve got a lot of tough games up in the road, and I need to be a part of this team. I’ve been a part of this team for a long time, and I don’t want to be down for too many days.”
In determining the length of the suspension, MLB not only reviewed Sunday’s incident but also Machado’s actions in Friday’s game, when he confronted Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson after what Machado perceived as a hard tag.
“You do the crime, you do the time,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “He understands it. We're going to miss him. … He learned he can't do what he did.”
Asked if he believed the ruling was fair, Machado said: “It is what it is. I don’t make that decision. That’s out of my hands. I can’t say how many games I’m going to be suspended for.”
Oakland Athletics left-hander Fernando Abad, who threw two inside pitches to Machado before the third baseman flung his bat down the third base line, will receive only a fine.
“He didn’t get suspended?” Machado said. “I had no idea. I don’t really care. He’s a part of the Oakland A’s organization. I’m a Baltimore Oriole. I did what I did, and he did what he did. We both have to pay for the consequences.”
Both acts were deemed intentional by MLB.
“It is what it is,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Nobody can judge intent. We all have some common sense, some more than others. We all know what was going on with Abad. How they chose to do it, they have precedent. That's why, when I talk about the five days, there really is no precedent. So you think it would be reduced, but maybe not. … I’m more concerned about my player and what’s going on with him than what the league tried to do with somebody else as they try to read people’s minds.”
There were no warnings issued at the time of Sunday’s incident, which likely played a role in Abad not receiving a suspension. Also, the location of Abad’s pitches wasn’t deemed as threatening as previous events that have led to suspensions.
Machado’s discipline was similar to the four-game suspension given to Boston’s Trot Nixon in 2002 when he tossed a bat at Tampa Bay Devil Rays right-hander Ryan Rupe.
Machado said he considered immediately serving the suspension — if he had, he would have started serving it Tuesday — but after consulting with the team and his agent, he decided to appeal.
“It’s crossed my mind,” Machado said of serving the penalty. “It’s a process. This is all a process. We’re just going to see where it goes, see where it takes us and take it day by day, how we’ve been doing it.”
Once Machado serves his suspension, the Orioles likely will need to add an extra infielder to the roster, which would also force them to play with a short bullpen. Ideally for the Orioles, Machado would serve a suspension around June 19, when they have a day off that would give their bullpen an extra day of rest heading into a three-game series on the road against the New York Yankees.
“Probably the most important thing for him right now is make sure he puts the club in a position in case we make an adjustment in our roster,” Showalter said. “It's a little short notice to get somebody here if he started [Tuesday]. I think that's his biggest concern, trying to see if he can help us lessen the blow on the impact on the roster.”
Showalter said it is possible that Machado drops the appeal.
“Personally, I would kind of let it go away [and serve the suspension],” first baseman Chris Davis said. “I’m not in his shoes. It’s easy to say that on the outside looking in. It is what it is. He knows he screwed up. Now, he has to serve his suspension. Now, we move on.”
When Machado debuted in the major leagues in August 2012 at age 20, people around baseball raved about how quickly the game came to him, as well as the maturity he displayed. In his first full major league season in 2013, he became an American League All-Star, led the AL in doubles and won the AL Platinum Glove for the league’s best overall defensive player as he emerged as one of the game’s top young stars.
That changed over the course of three days over the weekend, when Machado became involved in two disputes with the Athletics, culminating in the bat-tossing incident.
Showalter is confident that Machado will learn from the incident because of the Orioles’ clubhouse environment and the veteran players who have mentored him since his first day in the big leagues. Machado apologized to his teammates in a players-only meeting before Monday's game.
However, Showalter said he can’t monitor Machado’s behavior at all times, particularly in the offseason. Although the team never publicly commented, it wasn’t happy when a photo surfaced in January of Machado with suspended Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez at a Jay Z concert.
“When he’s here with us, from February to, we hope, until the end of October, he’s fine,” Showalter said. “I can’t tell you once the season’s over. I don’t think anybody can. We all make decisions about who we surround ourselves with. We all go back to what our mom said, ‘You are who you hang around.’ For seven or eight months, I know who he’s hanging around, for the most part. He’s a good kid. He means well, and he just made a bad decision.”
In multiple reports published Tuesday, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette did not rule out the possibility of sending Machado back to the minor leagues, given his struggles returning from offseason left knee surgery and the attention drawn on him in recent days.
“Actually I said that the kid established himself as a big leaguer last year,” Duquette told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday. “He needs to make a living at the big league level, and if he can’t, it’s an option to send him to the minors.
“Any player who has options can be optioned to the minor leagues … any player,” Duquette said. “I think Manny needs to re-establish himself as a big leaguer this season. And I hope he can do it and it is with us.”
Showalter said he didn’t foresee Machado being sent to the minors.
“But who knows what the future brings,” Showalter said. “I think where he is right now, and where we’re trying to get, I don’t think it behooves him to have his field manager talking about that, and I’m not. I’m trying to get him ready.”
After missing spring training and the first month of the regular season while recovering from his surgery, Machado entered Tuesday’s game hitting just .229 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 35 games and has made seven errors this season after committing just 13 in 156 games last season.
“I haven’t been swinging the bat well,” Machado said. “I haven’t been performing where I’ve been performing, and whatever consequences have to be taken by that are out of my hands. I can’t do anything about it.”