For whatever reason, Manny Machado keeps finding himself smack dab in the middle of controversial plays that either border the line of acceptability or go much further, depending on one's perspective. The San Diego Padres superstar was involved in yet another "uh, did he really need to do that" moment during Sunday Night Baseball against the St. Louis Cardinals when he prevented second baseman Tommy Edman from turning a 4-3 double play via a takeout slide some 30 feet from the bag.
Machado both has a right to the baseline and the right to elude any tag. Technically, he could have barreled through Edman, risking injury to both he and the Cardinals player. So, technically, this could have been worse. And mildly dirtier. But perhaps there's a reason why Machado consistently does things that won't hurt him but could seriously injure opponents.
All things considered, that's probably the most logical explanation for why he's now taken three gratuitous shots at an infielder's legs. Because he can and he wants to. Because a certain faction of people will twist themselves into idealogical pretzels to explain away the dangerous and completely unnecessary actions. Because he has no qualms with earning a reputation.
Why else would he still be doing it? It's been four years since he expedited the end of Dustin Pedroia's career with a slide into second base on a grounder that was never going to be a double play.
It's been 2.5 years since Machado needlessly kicked Jesus Aguilar's leg as he reached first base out of frustration.
Both of these are completely indefensible. They're like walnuts, creating a a deep stain that won't come out in one wash. The complaints about Machado not hustling or being a showboat are largely stupid and unfounded. The complaints about him being needlessly aggressive with no regard for his colleague's health and safety? Well, how would one even combat that argument at this point?
To be clear, last night's incident was the least severe of the bunch. The idea that he was trying to avoid a tag loses a bit of steam when you realize he wasn't tagged and immediately stops his trek to second base to check on Edman, which was nice but not as nice as not barreling into legs in the first place.
This isn't about playing hard either. Machado making it harder to tag him was a smart baseball play and helped prevent a double play. I am going to humbly suggest though that there's a reason we don't see runners performing takeout slides at the midway parts of their 90-foot journey between bases. Not only are they dangerous, they are completely unexpected because, well, who would do that?
Padres fans are probably going to be incensed at all this, even though they harbored the same feelings when Machado played for the rival Dodgers. To them I'd simply ask this: would you be okay if the roles were reversed? If a runner shockingly went cleats-first into his legs while he was attempting a 5-4 double play?
Should be interesting.
The two points here: Machado has put himself in a situation that he shouldn't be afforded the benefit of the doubt. That's not on anyone but himself. And there's real danger in being an absolutist when it comes to these types of plays. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it. If Major League Baseball wants to lose Fernando Tatis Jr. or Javy Baez or any other star on a similar slide in mid-May, that's their business. To me, it seems like accepting Machado's surprising skid as a new normal could do a lot more harm than good.