Hot Take Tuesday: Stand and Cheer for Manny, Birdland

As many of you probably know, our beloved Orioles will be playing host to the San Diego Padres starting Tuesday evening. While this series normally would carry excitement because of the interleague dynamic, it’s especially important to the city of Baltimore because it marks the return of one Manny Machado to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Since his departure last trade deadline, Machado has been a member of the World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers and signed an incredible contract with San Diego this winter. In just under seven full seasons with the Orioles, Manny was a fan favorite. Yet, with the Padres making the trip to Baltimore, his reception seems as if it may not be so welcoming.

On Monday, our Eutaw Street Report Twitter account expressed frustration with 105.7 the Fan for making a commercial centered around his antics.

Without a doubt, the talk about booing Machado throughout the series is ramping up, so for my Hot Take Tuesday this week, I think it’s appropriate to put a halt to that chatter.

Manny Machado is fully deserving of our unwavering appreciation, not our relentless hate.

One major argument against Machado’s legacy in Baltimore is the fact that he left in his first legitimate crack at free agency. I get how that comes across, but before rashly punishing him for it, understand that the Orioles forced their own hand in trading the stud infielder, it wasn’t the other way around.

Normally, when a player receives backlash for causing a team to trade him before leaving in free agency, it’s because he explicitly said that he didn’t desire to play there anymore. In Machado’s case, however, those sentiments didn’t really seem that strong. In fact, because the Orioles failed to publicly extend a competitive contract offer or engage in talks until far too late, it’s impossible to confirm that he wouldn’t have stayed if given a real chance to re-sign with the club.

He said as much to Britt Ghiroli in an interview for The Athletic earlier this week.

“There was a lot of situations (in the past) where we reached out, and we wanted to stay there, and they kept saying, ‘Hey, yeah, we’re going to call you back. And we’re going to talk.’ And we’re still waiting for that call[…]

Did Machado want to stay at some point? There was always the idea that a talent like his would price himself out of Baltimore. Earlier in his career, the two sides explored an extension. But then Machado got hurt. Two consecutive season-ending knee surgeries. Maybe there was a window. Perhaps not.

“In 2015 they were like, ‘All right, we might talk this offseason. We’ll give you a call,’” Machado said. “The call, well, who knows?

If the Orioles had truly been smart, they would have identified the reality that Machado was a generational talent much earlier than they did and worked to extend his contract before his price tag got too high. In not doing that, they created a situation in which they couldn’t compete with the other offers that Machado would get, meaning the majority of the blame for his departure should be pinned on their back.

Second, quite frankly, Manny is one of the best players the Orioles have had in decades. I won’t go as far as to say that he is an All-Time Oriole, as my 1998 birthdate probably ages me out of the demographic of people who can speak to that, but even still, I can definitively say that he’s the best player that Baltimore has seen in my lifetime.

In his stint with the birds, Machado was a career .283 hitter, totaling 162 HRs and 471 RBI. Additionally, Manny represented the Orioles in four All Star Games (the last of which was a tear-jerker for me) and won two Gold Glove Awards at third base with a Platinum Glove for good measure.

On the whole, Machado’s career with the Orioles was consistently strong, and in terms of sheer skill, he’s the best player I can remember watching. The throws he made with a fully torqued body from third, the bombs he’d hit once finding his power stroke, the presence he had in the lineup, it was all spectacular. That kind of player deserves a warm welcome home, barring any ridiculously snake-like behavior while heading out the door. As I’ve already outlined, Machado’s handling of his situation was appropriate.

Now, while his departure doesn’t warrant any backlash, I can understand the point that the good is accompanied by the bad when it comes to his antics on the field. Without a doubt, his laziness on the way to first base, his boneheaded baserunning and his occasional hot-headedness with other players deserve criticism. Simply put, he’s a diva.

Manny Machado makes a throw during spring training.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

But, as one of my high school buddies astutely said just a few days ago, he was our diva.

While Manny had a portfolio of incredibly frustrating moments that made you want to punch him in the gut, he had a full gallery of wonderful moments that would take you out of your seat in outright joy. I’m talking about the 3-HR game against the Angels that was capped with a walk-off Grand Slam; I’m talking about the beam from foul ground at Yankee Stadium that nabbed Luis Cruz; I’m talking about the fake to first that started a rundown in a tie game against Tampa Bay when he was just 20 years old. All of these moments were so wonderful, it’s a shame to forget them out of frustration with the franchise’s inability to think proactively and lock up the cornerstone talent.

At the core of each of these pieces of his career is something bigger about Machado, though. It’s something that will always be so very important to me and should be for any Orioles fan. See, before Machado was ready to burst onto the scene in 2012, Baltimore baseball was effectively an oxymoron. For my entire life up to that point, the Orioles had been among the laughingstock of the MLB. They were downright terrible.

However, Manny Machado’s arrival signaled the arrival of the Orioles. In that 2012 season they not only had their first winning record since 1997 but also won the Wild Card Game against the Texas Rangers, and took the New York Yankees to five games in the ALDS. For the next few years, they were one of the best teams in baseball.

Manny Machado was not just an integral part of that run but likely the key part of it.

If we overlook that reality and welcome him home in any way that isn’t lovingly, we’ve failed as a fan base.

This entry was posted in Bird Feed, Blog View, Featured by Aidan Griesser. Bookmark the permalink.

About Aidan Griesser

Aidan Griesser is a student at Boston College but don't worry, the evil influence of Boston sports can't sway his devotion to the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles! Aidan's from Annapolis and previously worked with the B-More Opinionated podcast for two years. When it comes to sports writing, Aidan is interested...more

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