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Commentary: Machado putting the T in torpid

  • NLCS-Brewers-Dodgers-Baseball

    Los Angeles Dodgers' Manny Machado reacts after popping out during the first inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday in Los Angeles.

    JAE HONG / AP

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Attention, all those teams lining up to offer free agent-to-be Manny Machado a multi-year, one hundred and something million-dollar contract: buyer beware.

When it comes to hustling, Manny says, “That’s not my cup of tea.”

Those were Machado’s words, during an interview with Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. We saw that hustling isn’t Machado’s cup of tea when he failed to run out a grounder for his Dodgers teammates — if not for himself — during Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

The winner of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Brewers goes to the World Series. So, you might say these are fairly important games. One would think that even if hustling wasn’t your cup of tea, you might at least make it your cup of tea for a few games in October.

Not Manny Machado.

He’s a self-acknowledged unrepentant loiterer. Regular season or postseason, doesn’t matter. Hustling’s just not his cup of tea. Presumably Manny does have SOME cups of tea. It’s just that hustling isn’t one of them.

It’s hard to decide which is more offensive. A player openly dogging it on baseball’s biggest stage, or that same player freely, almost cavalierly, admitting that he was dogging it because playing hard means nothing to him.

Think about that. Isn’t the simple act of playing hard the very essence of sports? To play harder, play better than the other team, or the other individual?

I mean, if you’re not going to play hard, why bother playing at all?

Former Indians manager Charlie Manuel even had a name for it.

“He’s a hard tryer,” said Manuel of a player who tried hard, all the time. Playing hard didn’t used to be considered a skill. But apparently it is now. A rare skill. We know this because managers, coaches, scouts and front office personnel feel obligated to mention it when it applies to a player — because it doesn’t apply to all players.

“He plays hard,” is one of the biggest compliments an athlete can be given, even though it shouldn’t be, because if you’re playing, it should be a given that you’ll play hard. But it’s not a given.

“Does he play hard?” is one of the first, most important, and most frequently asked questions about players in all sports.

It’s why players who bust it all the time stand out so much. Because so many of them don’t. Guys like Manny Machado, and other loiterers, for whom hustling and playing hard is not their cup of tea.

It’s somewhat amazing, and more than a little sad, that for some players, the very essence of their profession — sheer competition — is not something in which they are particularly interested.

Unfortunately, tragically even, there is no penalty for loafing. It’s one of the perks of being a star. If your quantifiable skills — those that can be counted, measured, analytically dissected, universally hailed and admired — are so off the charts compared to your peers, then hustling is optional.

You get a free pass. Fortunately, most of the great players play hard. It’s one of the reasons they’re great. I doubt we’ll ever see the day that Mike Trout says hustling “isn’t my cup of tea.” I know we never saw it with, or heard it from, Derek Jeter.

With only a few exceptions, you don’t normally become greater than everyone else when everyone else is playing harder than you are. But there are exceptions. What makes Machado different is that he chose not to hustle, then didn’t even try to talk his way out of it by saying his hamstring has been barking lately, or he slipped coming out of the box, or, it’s Saturday.

Instead, Machado cut right to the chase. He doesn’t hustle because he doesn’t like to hustle. It’s not his cup of tea. You got a problem with that? Machado in the NLCS has also had two base-running incidents in which he tried to grab at or physically distract infielders when he was sliding into second base. In Game 4 on Tuesday night, Machado purposely ran over the leg of Milwaukee first baseman Jesus Aguilar, a stunt Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich labeled as, “a dirty play by a dirty player.”

The NLCS isn’t even over, and already Machado has told the world that hustling isn’t his cup of tea, and he’s been labeled “a dirty player” by the opposing team.

Note to all future free agents: this is not the recommended way to position yourself for a big free-agent payday. Maybe playing most of this year with the 115-loss Orioles warped Machado’s will to compete. Or maybe this is simply a case of — to NOT coin a phrase — Manny being Manny.

Whatever the reason, it’s a bad look and sends a bad message. But he’ll still cash in big as a free agent.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jim_Ingraham.


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