Welcome to The Opener, where every weekday morning during the regular season you’ll receive a fresh and current story to start the day from one of SI.com’s MLB writers.
SAN DIEGO – At the height of a personal milestone that puts him on the Hall of Fame highway, and in the midst of the very first MVP discussions, Manny Machado says he wants to avoid talking about one topic: Manny Machado.
“We have a great group of guys here,” says the Fathersthird base. “I don’t want it to be about me. All I want to do is play baseball and let him do the talking for me. Baseball only. “
“So, can we talk about hitting?”
“Oh no. That’s when things go wrong. It’s like a curse. If it’s after the game, about something that happened in the game, that’s fine.”
Without amplification, Machado has never been better. His batting average (.329), base percentage (.401) and adjusted OPS (173) are at very high rates in his career. He’s taking the extra base 64% of the time, another career best, without ever getting out of the basics. His third base defense continues to improve, in part because he plays seven feet deeper than seven years ago, allowing him to show off his amazing range and arm.
The fact that Machado has a career season as shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. skips half the season to recover from a broken wrist adds to his MVP argument. He finished in the top 10 four times in the MVP vote, but never won it. Along with an initial locked six-man rotation that could dominate a post-season streak, Machado is one of the main reasons the Padres thrived without Tatis and why San Diego has become an electric baseball town that understands this team is enough. good to win the first world series franchise.
Now is the right time to appreciate Machado, especially as he approaches 1,500 hits, each of which shoves his controversial past into the bin of an immature young man. Machado starts this weekend with 1,494 hits, including 260 home runs.
Turning 30 on July 6, Machado will become only the 17th player to reach half of 3,000 hits and 500 homers by age 30. Twelve of the 14 players eligible for the Hall of Fame to achieve the milestones that young people are consecrated in Cooperstown. (The exceptions are Alex Rodriguez and Andruw Jones.) Two more are likely to join them in the Hall when they become eligible: Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.
Machado’s career numbers most closely resemble those of Cal Ripken Jr. before age 30, with Machado leading slightly in doubles (291–285), homer (260–217), batting average (.282 – .272) and OPS (. 831 – .806). In a more modern context, Machado is the successful leader of a stellar group of players born in 1992, which includes MVP winners Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts and Kris Bryant; and MVP runners-up Aaron Judge and José Ramírez.
“The most impressive thing about Manny is that he posts every day,” says Eric Hosmer, first baseman of the Padres. “I think there’s not enough appreciation for kids playing through things. And seeing him play through many things that have haunted him over the years is something teammates appreciate, but many people may not know.
Scroll to Continue
Machado has played 96% of San Diego’s games since signing a $ 300 million 10-year contract with the Padres before the 2019 season. He can withdraw from that contract after next season when he is 31 with five years and $. 150 million remaining on the deal. He still resides in Miami.
“That’s home,” Machado says. “It will always be. That’s where my family is. I’m lucky. I have two great places to live: San Diego and, around November, I always come home to Miami.”
Without Tatis, the Padres are Machado’s team. He’s thriving in the absence of superstar shortstop, who has yet to play more than 130 games in a season, but has been celebrated as one of the “faces of baseball” for his explosive play. Last September, during the Padres’ two-month slump, Machado yelled at Tatis on the bench, yelling, “It’s not about you!” and “Go play baseball,” after Tatis reacted angrily to a third strike called. Tatis still hasn’t swung a club this year due to a broken wrist. Sources in the team don’t expect him to return until July from what was a slow-healing injury.
Two years ago, Machado told then Padres coach Wayne Kirby: “I’m ready. I’m ready to be a leader. ”The opportunity is more evident than ever without Tatis. Machado delights in organizing group golf outings and dinners.
“Team dinner in Milwaukee, golf trip to Cincinnati … He always does stuff like that with the team,” says Hosmer. “What sets him apart is that his demeanor is so relaxed. You wouldn’t know if it’s spring training at bat or World Series Game 7. He is always so relaxed. She just has that ease with him. It never seems like anything is speeding him up. He is just kind and cold, calm and collected. “
For much of his career, Machado seemed to be a controversy walking, kicking, and throwing bats waiting to happen. Machado was suspended five games in 2014 for throwing a bat, four games in ’16 for charging the mound and one game in ’19 for arguing aggressively with a referee. There was the slip to second base in ’17 where he injured his left knee again Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, and the last slides and kicks of first baseman Jesús Aguilar in NLCS ’18 against Milwaukee.
brewers winger Christian Yelich called Machado after the incident with Aguilar, calling it “a dirty game of a dirty player”. Yelich told YES then: “The boy showed the whole world right now his true colors … He had a story. Does it happen once with him? Is it an accident? The fourth or fifth time? Is it intentional? .
Such disputes have diminished. Machado is changing the narrative of who he is as a baseball player this year. After turning 30 and hitting important milestones, he did well to let his game talk about him.
“It’s nice to see what it has become,” he says Mets manager Buck Showalter, his former manager Baltimore. “More than great instinct, what he has is great imagination on the pitch. He is able to see a way to make a game, to throw a baseball weapon if necessary, and to be extremely accurate.
“One of the special things about Manny is that he’s so loose. We had to tie his knees with a procedure in Baltimore because they were very loose. It’s the same with the shoulders and the elbows ”.
In a series of statements for San Diego this week, Showalter took a close look at what his former player and the Padres have become. After New York took first place for its 38th win (the highest in the National League which entered Friday), the Padres beat the Mets the next two nights by a combined score of 20–2. Starting pitchers Yu Darvish and Sean Manaea combined for 14 innings as they conceded to the Mets just five hits and one run earned. (No rotation generates more innings than the Padres crew.) And Machado drove in four runs and hit three more hits, approaching and quietly halfway to 3,000.
More MLB coverage:
• How concerned should we be about these battling All-Stars?
• Hot Seat Index: Which MLB Managers Could Be Fired Next?
• Joe Maddon’s firing deepens the era of angels’ instability
• The Phillies had no choice but to sack Joe Girardi
• The absolute improbability of Nick Castellanos’ units in the deep left field