Yankees’ Manny Machado pass deserves only cheers
His mood brightened the most, late Monday afternoon, when Manny Machado received a question about Yankee Stadium’s legendarily generous right-field porch.
“I think everyone knows Yankee Stadium, how short right field is,” the Padres’ $300 million man said after he lost his Bronx debut in his new uniform, 5-2 to the Yankees. “You definitely saw it today with Gary. It was at, what? 300 feet, I think it was? I’ve seen that for a long time. It is what it is.”
Gary Sanchez’s eighth-inning homer actually traveled 352.7 feet, as per Statcast. No matter. It ranked as a Stadium special, just as Machado said.
So Manny snapped off one good line and one good hit, a leadoff, ninth-inning double against Aroldis Chapman that immediately preceded three game-ending outs. Everything else that occurred during this Memorial Day matinee validated the Yankees’ most polarizing decision of the winter:
They made the right call passing on Machado.
“I get booed everywhere I go,” Machado said. “Great players get booed, so it happens.”
He got booed by the Stadium faithful on Monday far more fiercely than his previous 48 visits, all in an Orioles uniform, and you really could write a whole college dissertation just on that development: Given how many Yankees fans wanted Machado this past winter, is that segment younger and less likely to come to games, with the vocal anti-Manny crowd the ones buying tickets? Does the 10-year contract, which Machado earned with his consistent All-Star play, make him more boo-able, even though the Yankees never made him a concrete offer? And what was up with the “Overrated” chants, particularly during his first at-bat (a strikeout against Yankees opener Chad Green)?
Beats me. And Machado sure had no interest in engaging on the matter.
“How can you compare?” he responded, when asked whether the Stadium’s animosity volume level served as par for the course. “A boo is a boo.”
Question-and-answer sessions don’t come naturally for Manny, who established ground rules for the interview: He wouldn’t discuss his winter visit to Yankee Stadium, nor his obvious desire to sign with the Yankees as a free agent. That doesn’t make him a bad person. It does, however, contribute to making him a bad fit with the Yankees, the club that gets the most eyeballs.
Whereas in small-market, perpetually sunny San Diego, the 26-year-old can be Manny with minimal scrutiny.
“There’s been nothing else we’d ask of him right now,” Pads manager Andy Green said of Machado, who sports a solid (yet not great) slash line of .267/.347/.441 in 53 games. “He’s been a great teammate. He’s connected well with the group of guys we have … helped create a culture of expectations for us. We’ve been very thrilled with how it’s gone so far and we think he’ll continue to do it for a long time.”
Green’s counterpart, Aaron Boone, noted, “That is a superstar player. Obviously a lot of talk around us. … When you are a great player sometimes the visiting crowd lets you hear about it. More of a tribute to what a good player Manny is.’’
Well, partly yes. Equally, though, it’s a tribute to what a good call the Yankees made passing on Machado, who owns an Alex Rodriguez-like tendency to find controversy without quite matching A-Rod’s prodigious on-field value. When a reporter dared to ask Machado about his December visit to The Bronx, it didn’t go well. “Is that a baseball question?” he asked. It was. “Is it about the game?” It wasn’t.
Manny asked whether the reporter arrived late and didn’t hear the ground rules. The reporter acknowledged he heard the ground rules.
“OK. Yeah. [Bleep],” he said. “You guys good? I’ve got to catch a bus.”
If the Yankees’ left side of the infield had been a sinkhole, then this weakness of Machado’s would be overlooked. With Gio Urshela filling in ably for the injured Miguel Andujar at third base, however, and with Gleyber Torres handling shortstop perfectly fine as Didi Gregorius rehabilitates, you can’t intelligently argue that the Yankees are paying for their discretion.
No, it’s best for everyone’s sake that Machado is getting paid handsomely to play baseball far away from here. In that sense, this was a day for Yankees fans to cheer.
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