Los Angeles Dodgers: Revisiting Manny Machado’s hustle issue

Machado is the Phillies primary target this offseason. Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.
Machado is the Phillies primary target this offseason. Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. /

The way Manny Machado has been going this offseason has reminded us of the desire to be “boring” in the game.

There’s a famous scene in the classic baseball film Bull Durham involving advice from a veteran catcher to a younger pitcher. As most fans of a certain age know, the veteran, played by Kevin Costner, advises the younger player (Tim Robbins) about how to talk with the press. I don’t think Los Angeles Dodgers star Manny Machado has seen this picture.

Costner’s “Crash” Davis tells Robbins’ “Nuke” LaLoosh he needs to learn his clichés and tells him to write down “We gotta play it one day at a time.” LaLoosh begins writing, but almost immediately objects that the remark is “boring.” Davis replies, “Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down.”

The not-so-subtle point, clearly, is that a player doesn’t want to call attention to himself with his mouth when he’s not playing the game. And as all baseball fans of all ages now know, Machado seemingly has no more time for Davis’ point than LaLoosh originally did.

During the NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers, Machado was caught loafing down the line to first on a ball corralled by the Brewers shortstop. Later, he essentially told Ken Rosenthal he had been looking for a pitch to drive out of the ballpark, and once the first fielder came up with the ball cleanly, he didn’t see much point in sprinting down the baseline or sliding headfirst into first. He also dropped a couple non-boring lines on Rosenthal: “I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle’…,” and “That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.”

The Furor

The furor that followed for several days in sports and social media commentary was not boring either. Rosenthal’s immediate, bottom-line remark was fairly restrained: “If [Machado] wants true appreciation for his greatness, he should create attention only with his performance.”

However, others were not so kind:

Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports pointed to the lack of hustle of as part of a series of events including hard slides into opposing players and kicking a first baseman’s leg off the bag as evidence Manny was “careening toward something weird every other game now.” Perhaps, he speculated, his kicking Jesus Aguilar in the NLCS was a reaction to the reactions to his no-hustle remarks.

Among those reactions were a Brewers fan’s on Twitter: “So glad the Brewers didn’t sign Machado. #notJohnnyHustle” On sports talk radio in Philadelphia, a possible destination for Machado after the season, popular early morning commentator Angelo Cataldi had a loud opinion about Manny’s “cup of tea” comment: “You don’t bring that guy to my city!” He then called someone who disagreed with him on the air a “jackass.”

Blogger Bob Wankel at Crossing Broad in Philadelphia went along with Brown and saw Manny Machado kicking Aguilar as “perhaps looking to make amends for his comments.” While he didn’t seem to think that player’s recent controversies should make him less valuable, something about Manny’s behavior did seem to alter the writer’s perceptions of the games he was seeing. Even though Wankel included a video of the incident at first base in his piece, he wrote Machado “appeared to intentionally stomp on the back of Brewers 1B Jesus Aguilar’s leg.” There was no stomping involved.

A Symptom of the Times?

We have reached a point in our history, apparently, when black-and-white thinking rules all discourse. This is clearly the case in politics, but the age of the sound bite has seemed to seep into baseball analysis as well.

Days after Machado’s comments and the first base incident, NJ.com posted an article by Joe Giglio under the title “MLB free agency rumors: Phillies only team willing to pay Manny Machado $300M?”

Whether or not that evaluation is accurately predictive of an offer or offers Machado gets, it’s the thinking involved that makes Giglio’s angle interesting. And to be clear and precise, Giglio cites another writer who, in turn, had cited “one executive” in MLB about Machado’s coming offers.

There’s no reason to doubt Giglio’s or his second and third-hand sources’ sincerity in evaluating Manny’s future. But it’s only speculation, and Giglio does note another executive who doesn’t see the player’s value as damaged at all. (Clearly that guy didn’t get the memo about keeping it simple.)

However, can it be true that 28 or 29 of 30 MLB teams will dismiss out-of-hand a generational talent?

Or is it more likely that a few more teams besides Philadelphia might consider some of the remarks Machado made to Rosenthal that were a little more “boring” than the comments seized on by the media. Among them was this: “I look back at the video and I’m like, ‘Woah, what was I doing?’ You know, just the emotions of the game … I’m the type of player that has stayed in the zone, I’m playing and I’m just in the zone.”

Manny Machado is in the zone, and he will be paid. Someone must have noticed that his first hit in the seventh game of NLCS was a bunt single. He ran very hard to first base for it. In his next big money game, the first game against the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, he drove in three of LA’s four runs.

Next. Dodgers 2018 minor league awards. dark

For a few more days or weeks, though, fans will probably still divide themselves into antagonistic camps wearing ball caps reading Never Manny or Make My Team Great with Manny.

As “Crash” Davis suggested, maybe he should have stuck with boring.