BOSTON – Most players are questioned ahead of their World Series debuts. Manny Machado was cross-examined.
October’s villain is especially despised at Fenway Park for planting his spikes into Dustin Pedroia in April 2017. The Red Sox second baseman hasn’t been the same.
“That’s old history,” Machado said Monday, deflector shields raised.
He’s Manny the Masher, Manny the Miscreant and Macho Manny all in one, whacking baseballs, opponents and questions.
Wearing a blue Los Angeles Dodgers World Series hoodie and gray pants, arms crossed, he sat between teammates Yasiel Puig and Ross Stripling, surrounded by a scrum of inquirers in the Pavilion Room on the 106-year-old ballpark’s fourth level. Even with stubble on his chin and lips, Machado’s face looked boyish. His hair was styled into cornrows at the top and a crew cut on the side.
With hard slides at second base against Milwaukee and a foot planted on the heel of Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar , Machado acquired notoriety far exceeding the attention he gained as a four-time All-Star infielder with Baltimore. He even earned condemnation from Pete Rose, whose own rambunctious play included running over Ray Fosse in an All-Star Game.
“I don’t think going in hard is the same as dragging your left foot, to kicking the guy’s foot off the bag,” Rose said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t know Manny Machado, so I don’t know if he’s a dirty player or if he’s not. But I just thought when he hit the first baseman’s foot it was kind of unnecessary.”
A few weeks from becoming a free agent at the age of 26, Machado’s actions could signal a giant “caveat emptor” sign to suitors, warning them “buyer beware.”
When he took out Pedroia during a slide at Baltimore on April 21 last year, Machado spiked his surgically repaired left knee and calf. Pedroia missed the next three games and has been limited to 92 games since.
“I know how I hurt my knee and I know what happened. That’s it. We all know,” Pedroia said.
Machado’s response was out of “The Godfather”: business, not personal.
“We’re not friends,” he said.
Because of what happened?
“That’s a good one, man. That’s a good one. That’s a really good one,” he said, chuckling.
Anger festered. Two days after the slide, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes threw a fastball behind Machado’s head and was suspended for four games.
When the teams met that May 2, Chris Sale threw a pitch behind Machado’s legs, and Machado criticized the Red Sox during a postgame interview that included 22 profanities in a 75-second span. He called Boston’s behavior “coward stuff” and said “I’ve lost my respect for that organization, for that coaching staff, for everyone over there.”
“We have bigger things to worry about now on both sides,” Sale said ahead of his start in Tuesday night’s opener. “We’re not worried about any individual player.”
Machado, as the saying goes, responded with his bat. He homered over the Green Monster and out of Fenway Park later in the series, then took a leisurely 29.8-second stroll around the bases. Machado’s eight homers at Fenway are tied for his most at an opposing ballpark.
“For me to put something over that one, it’s pretty cool,” he said.
Machado drew renewed scrutiny in the National League Championship Series. He failed to run hard on a grounder in Game 2, then made a pair of hard slides into Milwaukee’s Orlando Arcia in Game 3 while the shortstop was attempting to turn double plays. While Arcia made a wild throw on the second after Machado clipped his knee with a hand, umpires called a double play following a video review.
During an interview broadcast on FS1 before Game 4, Machado admitted, “I’m not the type of player that’s going to be Johnny Hustle and run down the line and slide to first base,” adding “That’s just not my personality. That’s not my cup of tea. That’s not who I am.”
In the 10th inning of that night’s game, he kicked Aguilar on the back of his leg while running out a groundout. He was fined $10,000 by the commissioner’s office, according to a person familiar with the discipline. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the penalty was not announced.
“He’s a player that has a history of those types of incidents,” Milwaukee star Christian Yelich said. “One time is an accident. Repeated over and over and over again, you’re just a dirty player. It’s a dirty play by a dirty player.”
Booed repeatedly when the series returned to Milwaukee, Machado surprised in Game 7 when he bunted on a 3-2 pitch from Jhoulys Chacin leading off the second inning and reached without a throw in 3.96 seconds, his fastest home-to-first time this year. It was the first full-count bunt single since Kansas City’s Nori Aoki on May 29, 2014, and Cody Bellinger followed with a two-run homer that put the Dodgers ahead to stay.
“I can’t say what I really want to say,” Machado explained in the jubilant clubhouse. “I know you want me to say it. You want a big story to write tomorrow. … He quick-pitched me. I’m going to drop one down. I know it was a little ballsy. But anything to win, and it came out perfect.”
He was acquired from Baltimore on July 18 to replace injured shortstop Corey Seager. Machado hit .297 with 37 homers and 107 RBIs in the regular season, and batted .250 with three homers and nine RBIs in 11 playoff games.
He’s done what was expected, “has a good way to channel that for the positive,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Machado’s answers to most everything are similar: whatever it takes.
“I’m here to play baseball,” he said. “I’m here to win a World Series. I’m here to bring a parade to the city of Los Angeles.”
And then, perhaps, leave.
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