Manny Machado has been about as good at avoiding controversy in the National League Championship Series as he’s been about avoiding opposing infielders when he slides into second base — which is to say not good at all.
While the baseball world continues to debate the legality of Machado’s slides from the Dodgers’ Game 3 loss, we also need to go back to Game 2 of the series when Machado triggered a social media backlash by not running out a grounder to shortstop.
There wasn’t much impact on the game, but rather it raised some eyebrows about how much “hustle” Machado plays with, particularly as he prepares to enter the open market in free agency and is expected to draw north of $200 million and perhaps even $300 million.
Machado responded to that criticism and might have stoked the flames even more. Here’s what he told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic: (emphasis ours)
“I’ve been thinking about it and it happens every time, there’s no excuse for it honestly. I’ve never given excuses for not running. I’m not hurt, there’s no excuse but I’ve been the same player … I’ve been doing this for eight years, I’m in The Show for eight years, I’ve done the same thing for eight years, I’ve been the same player. (Machado actually just completed his seventh season.)
“Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.
“Should I have run on that pitch? Yeah … but I didn’t and I gotta pay the consequences for it. It does look bad. It looks terrible. 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.”
If you were mad at Machado’s lack of hustle before, hearing him say, “Obviously, I’m not going to change” and that he’s not “Johnny Hustle” and “that’s not my cup of tea” is just going to enrage you. If you don’t care about Machado hustling on routine grounders, then you’re probably fine with his explanation.
Machado, 26, went on to say that in the at-bat he was looking for a ball he could hit out of the ballpark. It was a 3-0 count with two outs and nobody on base. When he grounded sharply to short, he saw Orlando Arcia had the ball as he was leaving the batter’s box. What, he figured, was the point of running hard?
Arcia wasn’t particularly quick getting the ball to first base, so Machado’s lack of hustle stood out even more. It left writers, former execs and fans on Twitter questioning Machado like so:
If Machado is not hurt, his lack of hustle on that groundout is inexplicable during the regular season and inexcusable during the ALCS.
— David P. Samson (@DavidPSamson) October 13, 2018
Manny Machado should really try sprinting when he hits the ball in the ss hole. teams are watching.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 13, 2018
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts didn’t have any problem with it, though. He told Dodgers beat writers Monday:
“I know that he’s doing a lot of things to help us win games,” Roberts said. “I don’t feel a need to have to address it. Some guys do that and take it, ‘I’m going to run so hard because I’m so mad.’ He’s guilty of going the other way. I don’t think it’s a disrespect to his teammates. There’s no perfect player. A guy that posts every inning is hard to come by these days. For me, the net, it’s not even close.”
To that point, Machado has been the Dodgers’ most productive player in the NLCS. He’s hitting .455 with a homer, five hits and three RBIs, all of which either lead the team or are tied for the lead. His 1.318 OPS is best on the team. He also leads the Dodgers in homers and RBIs in the postseason as a whole.
To discuss what Machado is costing himself by not hustling is a more complicated question. His reputation among fans might take a hit, sure, because the “not hustling” thing often irks them.
But will MLB GMs not give him millions upon millions of dollars because he’s not running out routine grounders when he’s also leading the team in homers and RBIs?
It’s hard to imagine that happening.
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