It’s time for the post I hoped to never have to write, but that, in the back of my mind, I was always preparing myself for. We’ve posted these types of “farewell” articles before – for Wei-Yin Chen, for Matt Wieters – and we will again – likely for Zach Britton in the coming days. I’ve also still got one saved in drafts that I put together for Chris Davis, but never got to post. Funny how things work out (or don’t work out, if you want to look at it that way).
But this one…man, this one. To say goodbye prematurely to perhaps the most talented player in the history of the Baltimore Orioles organization is quite a punch in the gut. Once Manny Machado wasn’t locked up to a long-term contract after about the 2015 season or so, most of Birdland made our peace with the fact that this day lay inevitably on the horizon. “Enjoy him while he’s here,” we told ourselves, “because after 2018, that’s all she wrote.” That day is here, Birdland, and we didn’t even get to watch him in an O’s uniform for those final 60+ games.
It’s not official yet, but by all accounts Manny has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he’ll finish out his final days of pre-free agency service time before hitting the market this winter.
Where exactly we O’s fans should direct our ire for this unacceptable, yet sadly predictable, course of events is a topic for another day. We’ll have plenty of time to be angry with the Angelos family, Dan Duquette, Brady Anderson, and whoever else as the stories about the real reasons for the lack of contact between the Birds and Machado’s camp over the past handful of seasons leak out.
Today is a day to look back and celebrate the Orioles career of Manuel Arturo Machado. A guy who was must-see TV, a human highlight reel, a reason to tune in every night even when the Birds were scuffling, or – as they are in 2018 – when they were the worst team in baseball. Every night (especially when he was playing third base), Machado had the potential to do something to make fans gasp.
The corny saying goes like this: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened at all.”
Let’s smile because all of this happened…
51 games, .262/.294/.445, 8 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 26 RBI
The playoff drought had reached 14 seasons. The Buckle-Up Birds were in contention in July and showed no signs of letting up. They needed help at third base. Talk radio lines were jammed with callers hoping that the team would trade for San Diego third baseman Chase Headley. The deadline came and went, with no help acquired at the hot corner.
The O’s had a young phenom down in Bowie, but he was a shortstop, and J.J. Hardy had that position on lockdown. Surely they wouldn’t ask Manny Machado to move to third base?
Of course, that’s exactly what the Orioles did. The rest, as they say, is history. He spent a few days learning third base down at AA, and was called up and inserted into the lineup on August 9 against Kansas City.
Just like Wieters before him, Manny’s first career hit was a three-bagger.
The next night, he hit his first – and second – major league home runs.
On September 12, he made what was, to that point, his signature defensive play, one that made O’s fans – and MLB observers in general – look up and say “hey, this guy might be something special.” The famous “Don’t throw it away, DON’T THROW IT AT ALL!” play.
In that doomed 2012 postseason series against the hated Yankees, Machado made his presence known, hitting a home run in that ill-fated Game 3.
2012 gave us just a taste of all the great things to come from number 13.
156 games, .283/.314/.432, 51 2B, 3 3B, 14 HR, 71 RBI, All-Star, Gold Glove, Platinum Glove
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
In his first full season, Manny introduced the term “MACHADOUBLE” into the O’s fan lexicon, smacking 51 of them.
While he had *mostly* doubles power though, he didn’t JUST have doubles power. He hit 14 home runs, including this memorable one in Boston on April 10, that helped kick off his rocky relationship with Red Sox fans.
With the glove, Manny continued to show us that his month-plus at third in 2012 was no fluke, putting together play after play just like this:
(MLB put together a list of his “Best Barehanded Plays from 2013″…in APRIL.)
On July 7, Manny made the play which remains atop his incredibly impressive career highlight reel, ranging into foul territory to recover and throw out New York’s Luis Cruz from well beyond the third base line.
Gary Thorne: “Whoa, mercy! Gonna see that one for a few years!” (He was right.)
Of course, when you win a Platinum Glove as the game’s best defender, there are plenty of highlights to choose from. Here are just a few more…
Unfortunately, 2013 ended on a sour note for both the Orioles and Manny. On September 23 in Tampa, Manny dislocated his kneecap while stepping awkwardly on first base. It ended his season, and was horrific to watch for O’s fans and baseball fans in general.
Manny had surgery in the offseason, and it was a tough one for Birdland, wondering if we’d see the same player when he took the field again in 2014…whenever that may have been.
82 games, .278/.324/.431, 14 2B, 12 HR, 32 RBI
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
As it turned out, Manny would miss the first month of 2014, making his debut on May 1, in the second game of a doubleheader against Pittsburgh. Would he be himself?
2014 was a magical season for the Orioles, as they captured their first AL East title since 1997, winning 96 games in the process. Manny’s season, though, was a bit uneven. It started a month late, as we’ve discussed, but he also earned himself a bit of a reputation as a hothead for the first time. He sparked two separate bench-clearings in the same series, as he first took exception to a Josh Donaldson tag, and later, appeared to throw his bat intentionally.
It was a very, very strange sequence of events, and was at odds with what we’d seen from Manny up to that point. It’s ancient news now, and there’s no sense re-litigating it, but I’d be remiss to not bring it up at all. It was weird, certainly, and an odd stain on that amazing season.
Just over a month later, the Birds played in Oakland, and Machado was, of course, welcomed with a cascade of boos and rude signs. He responded thusly:
Aside from that weirdness though, Manny just kept on being Manny.
In late July, he robbed Albert Pujols in similar fashion in back-to-back games, reminding many of his play on Luis Cruz from just over a year prior.
On July 29, he hit his first career walk-off home run.
He kept on being Manny right up until August 11 when…sigh. The other kneecap popped out.
It was revealed that Machado had a congenital condition in both knees, which required corrective surgery. Manny’s 2014 season was over. He wouldn’t be able to celebrate the division title with his teammates. More importantly, he (along with Matt Wieters and Chris Davis) would not be available for the postseason, a cruel practical joke from a universe that has just seemed to have it out for us Orioles fans since 1983.
Who knows if things could have been different against Kansas City? Ryan Flaherty certainly held his own that postseason, both in the field and at the plate as Machado’s replacement, but it’s still impossible to not look back and wonder.
162 games, .286/.359/.502, 30 2B, 1 3B, 35 HR, 86 RBI, 20 SB, All-Star, Gold Glove
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Coming off his second consecutive offseason knee surgery and rehab, Manny looked to prove that he could stay healthy for a full season. He did just that, playing all 162 games. While he was smashing 50 doubles in 2013, many fans said to ourselves “man, once he grows up a little, these doubles are going to turn into home runs…then, watch out.” And ye verily, it came to pass. Manny had 66 extra-base-hits, two fewer than he managed in 2013, but 21 fewer doubles, and 21 more home runs. MACHADOUBLES had become MACHADONGS.
On June 16, the Orioles belted EIGHT home runs against Philadelphia. Manny contributed two of those.
Do you ever get tired of watching these? I certainly do not.
Manny participated in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star festivities in Cincinnati.
During his timeout, Adam Jones got him some of his signature salsa.
Of course, he was still doing this:
On August 14, he blasted a walk-off homer against Oakland.
On September 22 in D.C., he picked up career hit number 500.
Manny won his second Gold Glove award, but the O’s finished a disappointing 81-81.
157 games, .294/.343/.533, 40 2B, 1 3B, 37 HR, 96 RBI, All-Star
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Eager to prove his breakout 2015 was no fluke production or health-wise, Manny was as advertised, playing in 157 games, posting a new career high in home runs, and bashing a career-best 78 extra-base hits and 341 total bases.
After his first dong of the year, Manny danced:
The glove was on full display in an April game against Texas:
On April 28, he hit his first grand slam of the season.
Then on May 8, Mother’s Day, he did it again. With a pink bat.
On May 24, Manny hit one to the train tracks in Houston.
On June 7, Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura (sigh…RIP) came inside to Manny one too many times, and received a nice right haymaker and headlock for his transgressions.
As usual, Manny did what he does at the hot corner…(often against Evan Longoria, apparently.)
Thorne: “Manny, an impossible play…” Now, Gary, you know that’s not true.
During that same series in Los Angeles (grr…enjoy him, Dodgers fans), Manny hit one to the friggin’ moon.
The Orioles (and their past giveaways) celebrated Manny’s birthday with a new garden gnome.
Thanks to Manny’s incredible range and quickness at third, and their matching otherworldly strong arms, Machado and Schoop were perhaps MLB’s best 3B-2B double play duo for several years. In 2016, they seemed to be especially dialed in.
On August 7 in Chicago, Manny hit a home run in each of his first three at-bats, in the first three innings, his first career three-dong game.
On August 14, Schoop hit a clutch three-run, go-ahead, two-out home run in the ninth inning in San Francisco, and Manny was so excited that he knocked his buddy over in celebration.
On August 30, Manny belted career HR number 100.
On September 6…yet another Manny Slam.
The Birds snuck into the playoffs as the second Wild Card, only to lose in Toronto. On the bright side, at least we got this:
156 games, .259/.310/.471, 33 2B, 1 3B, 33 HR, 95 RBI
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Manny played for the Dominican Republic, in honor of his grandfather, in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. As a result, we got a play that no O’s fan will ever forget. Manny, for once, found himself on the wrong end of a “web gem,” this time courtesy of Birds teammate Adam Jones, who was repping Team USA.
Back in MLB play, Manny had a rough first half, spawning a hundred “What’s wrong with Machado?” blogs, and a thousand “Manny is just going through some bad luck” response pieces. He did, however, manage this 470-foot blast in New York.
On May 1, just a couple weeks after going through some more pointless drama with Boston thanks to a perceived dirty slide (absolute nonsense, for the record), Manny stole another little piece of Red Sox fans’ souls on a game-ending line drive.
Oh, did I say AFTER the drama? That was a lie. It was DURING the drama, because those Boston fools made sure it carried over into the next time the teams met.
Manny responded with a 466-foot homer over the monstahhhhh.
Manny and Schoop? Yeah, they were still doing the damn thing around the horn.
(Oh hey…Longoria again!)
What, only 465 feet? Manny must have been tired on June 2, when he took Rick Porcello to the damn club level at OPACY.
Throwing from foul territory? Yup, he can still do that too.
How about starting a 5-4-3 triple play? On August 3, Manny did just that.
You want more Manny Slams? I got more Manny Slams.
Ho hum, you say? Alright, how about a walk-off Manny Slam to cap off a three-homer game? That float your boat?
That was Manny’s third grand slam between August 7 and 18, by the way.
There’s an extended highlight of it for some reason, so why not?
On August 23, I took my then five-month old son to the Yard for my birthday. Zach Britton – as he loves to do on my birthday – blew a save in the ninth inning. Nine innings was all a five-month old could handle, so I missed this:
Six days later, he had yet another multi-homer game.
Remember we talked about Manny’s slow start? Yeah, he was named AL Player of the Month for August. He hit .341 with 12 HR and 35 RBI in the month.
He wasn’t done just because the calendar flipped though. On September 5, the Birds were down to their last out against the Yankees. Dellin Betances was on the bump. There was a man on. Manny’s second home run of the game won it.
2017, of course, ended on quite a sour note for the O’s. That sour note has, unfortunately, carried on over into…
96 games, .315/.387/.575, 21 2B, 1 3B, 24 HR, 65 RBI, All-Star (with Baltimore)
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Heading into the season, Manny made it known that he wanted to move to shortstop. While this rubbed a lot of O’s fans the wrong way, the fact remains that Manny came up as a shortstop. He deferred to J.J. Hardy while the veteran was here, but once Hardy was gone, Machado saw the shortstop spot as his. Why would the game’s best (arguably) third baseman, a Gold Glover winner in two of his four full seasons, want to move?
It caused a lot of hand-wringing among fans. The results have been…uneven, to put it mildly. The defensive metrics are not kind. He’s going to play short in LA though, so they obviously don’t hate what they’ve seen.
Also on the minds of fans? All the rumors that Machado was perhaps going to be traded last winter. It all proved to be Mach-ado about nothing, as the Orioles ultimately decided to make one last go at it with their core group of players who had seen so much success since 2012.
We saw our new regular 6-4-3 combo during the first series of the year.
He showed some nice range in Houston on April 2.
On April 6, Manny continued to own CC Sabathia, homering twice for the first time in 2018.
I tell you what…when I watch plays like these, I have a hard time believing those defensive metrics that say Manny has been AWFUL at short.
On April 19, Manny homered twice…again.
April 22…yep, you guessed it. Two more dongs, these both coming off oh no big deal…Corey Kluber.
May 11, two more homers, including a Manny Slam.
Remember when I said I took my son to his first game in August of 2017, and Britton blew the save, and I missed Manny’s walk-off? Well, last month, I took Jr. to his first ROAD O’s game, in Atlanta. The Birds had a four-run lead headed into the bottom of the ninth. Britton blew it AGAIN. Nine innings was, again, all a one-year old could handle. So, thanks to Zach, Brooks and I both missed an O’s win in person, which came in the 15th inning courtesy of…
On July 10, Manny went yard twice yet again.
During all this Manny-Being-Awesome, the guys around him were, sadly, awful. The Birds are neck-and-neck with Kansas City in the battle for the 2019 first-overall draft pick, and they are on pace to challenge the 1988 O’s for worst record in team history.
And so then, on Sunday…Manny hit his final home run as an Oriole (barring a return some future day that none of us are banking on).
Perhaps Machado will move back to third base with whatever team he signs with as a free agent this winter. Maybe he’ll stay at short, and as the sample size grows, those defensive metrics will be more generous to him.
The sad part is it’s really no longer our concern as O’s fans.
All we can do is…keep looking back at these highlights, wistfully. And wish him luck. And curse endlessly the inept ownership/front office (take your pick; arguing who should get the lion’s share of the blame is a game for another day…or many more days) that allowed such an extremely talented home-grown player to ever put on another jersey.
So long, Manny. Thank you for everything. Go win a ring with Los Angeles. And then sign with some National League team this winter…just not the Yankees. Or Red Sox. Please?