Manny Machado is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad public relations week. It all started during Game Two of the NLCS, when Machado struck a groundball towards Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia. The Dodgers superstar didn’t run the ball out at top speed, and drew criticism for lacking hustle.
To make matters worse, the 26-year-old doubled down on the decision. Consider what he told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) after the game:
“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.”
There are a few lines there that Machado’s agent probably wants back, especially with free agency looming. Had things stopped there, however, the whole situation probably would have blown over and this story wouldn’t even be necessary. Instead, Machado made an egregiously poor play at first base in Game Four, as he tripped Jesus Aguilar. Major League Baseball determined the incident intentional and fined Machado.
The ensuing media frenzy resulted in a vociferous anti-Machado sentiment among Yankees fans. A laundry list of contrived refrains and lazy narratives amplified overnight. These arguments tend to fall into two categories, and both need refuting.
First, there’s the notion that the Yankees have a strong offense already and don’t need to add Machado. That’s off the mark because there is no such thing as too much offense. This season he hit .297/.367/.538 with 37 home runs — good for a 140 wRC+. At his peak, Machado could be a seven-plus win player. Having three of those types of batters in one lineup would be nearly unprecedented. They very well could out-slug their deficiencies.
The Yankees also have a positional need for Machado. Didi Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, which leaves the shortstop role wide open. Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner have played coy in recent days, but they will surely explore external upgrades. There is no move more impactful than Machado. Those who feel content with just re-signing Adeiny Hechavarria or Neil Walker will almost certainly regret that come May.
There’s also the sentiment that Machado’s attitude won’t play in New York, a fear that he will erode the team’s culture. First, I would be remiss to not point out the dog whistles involved in some of these criticisms. They’re actually growing pretty loud, just like how they did with Robinson Cano, and should flat out stop.
Second, yes, Machado is a bit of a jerk, but that’s okay. Grant Brisbee recently described him as a professional wrestling heel. And you know what? Heels get cheered now! Just listen to the reaction that Bullet Club gets now. Machado can be the villain because he backs it up on the field.
As for behind the scenes, and the fear that Machado will create chaos in the locker room, consider this Instagram post from the All-Star Game.
They’re all friends. I highly doubt that any drama will derail the team’s chemistry. This will happen with any larger than life player. First it was Alex Rodriguez. Then it was Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees are a tight team and adding Machado won’t change that. If nothing else, they will become even closer.
Machado has had a terrible week from a PR perspective. His attitude was on full display, to the point where one could reasonably suspect that he’s a jerk. But he’s a generational talent at a position of need, and he absolutely would be perfect for the Yankees.