NEW YORK — At this time last season, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were members of their respective All-Star teams and the toast of the Midsummer Classic that was being held in Kansas City.
Manny Machado, however, was still a member of the Double-A Bowie Baysox at this time last season. He was 20 years old and stood about a month away from being called up to join the big league team.
Despite that difference in circumstance, Machado said on Monday that he never doubted he could quickly make up ground on Harper and Trout to join them for their second All-Star appearance. Baltimore's 21-year-old third baseman said this in the rotunda at Citi Field, his confident prescience confirmed by the presence of his American League teammates
"You set your goals throughout the year and you work hard for it," said Machado, a reserve who was stationed in between teammates Adam Jones and Chris Davis. "[Harper and Trout] a are two of the best players in the game right now. They put their work in it.
"At the same time, anyone can make it if they work hard. You just have to work hard."
Did he set making the All-Star game in his first full season as a goal before 2013?
"Sure," Machado said. "I think everyone sets that as a goal."
Machado's insistence that only hard work goes into being an All-Star was funny, if only because it also overlooked the natural talent that is required to be a perennial All-Star like he, Harper and Trout seem preordained to be. After all, there are plenty of 19- and 20-year-olds who are working hard but still stuck in places like Bowie.
Machado still erred a lot on the humble side during his session Monday, even if his accomplishments give him plenty of reason to boast. The Miami-area native hit 39 doubles in his 96 games before the break, giving him a chance to beat the all-time single season record of 67, set by Early Webb in 1931. That lofty total pairs with a slash line of .310/.337/.470 and totals of seven homers and 45 RBI, putting Machado among the greatest ballplayers in that age range. (Machado turned 21 on July 6, the day it was announced he had made the All-Star team.)
Indeed, if 2012 was the year that Harper and Trout started their long run of All-Star appearances, 2013 may end up being known as the year that Machado joined them to form a triumvirate that will rule over the Midsummer Classic for years to come. Each of the three men were frequently asked about the others while other All-Star veterans were asked about the impending youth transition that the trio is leading. Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright named Machado's unbelievable throw from July 7 as his favorite play of the season's first half.
I asked Machado if he'd rather hit a home run in Tuesday night's game or a double, given that his name is quickly becoming synonymous with the two bagger.
"Just a hit anywhere," Machado said. "Get on base, do whatever you can."