The weekend-long hostilities between the Oakland A's and Baltimore Orioles reached a boiling point on Sunday afternoon after Manny Machado tossed his bat in the direction of Oakland A's third baseman Alberto Callaspo. The bat toss immediately followed a brush back pitch from A's reliever Fernando Abad that nearly struck Machado on the knee, and it incited a benches-clearing altercation that included some pushing and shoving, but no major physicality.
It could be played off as an innocent mistake. That Machado simply lost control of his bat on an awkward swing. That's what he claimed during comments after the game. However, it was pretty clear to those watching that Machado had intended to fire his bat, perhaps in the direction of Abad, after nearly being hit in the knee by the previous pitch. The Orioles home broadcast even acknowledged what appeared to be Machado's intent, and if MLB agrees, he could be looking at a lengthy suspension as a result.
Machado was ejected on the spot for his bat toss. Abad was also tossed for his role in escalating the tensions.
What got under the A's skin mostly on Sunday was the fact that a pair of Machado back swings earlier in the game struck catcher Derek Norris on the back of the head. The A's didn't necessarily feel like the swings were intentional, but they didn't appreciate that Machado never apologized to Norris or asked if he was okay.
This all follows another incident in Friday's series opener that involved Machado. On that night, Machado objected to what he perceived was an aggressive tag by Josh Donaldson and immediately tossed his helmet in Donaldson's direction, causing the benches to empty.
Later in the game, Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen brushed Donaldson off the plate with one pitch before drilling him on the arm with another. There were no further exchanges on Friday or Saturday, but obviously all of these things were filed away heading into Sunday, and with the Orioles finding themselves behind early in a game they eventually lost 11-1, that may have caused some frustrations to boil over.
That's not to put the entire issue on Baltimore's players or more specifically Machado, but he's the only player who was at the center of everything. It's causing people to look at him as a hot-tempered player who's unable to control his emotions in the heat of battle. It's difficult to argue against that based on his reaction Friday. Sunday may be a little different, however, considering Machado is coming off a major operation on his left knee in October. He only returned to Baltimore's lineup on May 1, and it's understandable that he would be sensitive about a pitch coming at his legs.
The fact that he's only 21, which is very young for a big league player, factors into it a little bit as well. He obviously has some maturing to do, as we all did at that age. But it really doesn't excuse putting players in harm's way by throwing a helmet or a bat. Maybe, hopefully, this will be a learning experience that helps him improve on keeping his emotions in check and keeping the game professional.
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