Though it’s difficult to recall 2.5 years ago when the shoe was extremely on the other foot in terms of defending this particular player’s actions, Dodgers fans who tuned into Sunday Night Baseball between the Pads and Cards found themselves inflamed by a bizarre controversy in the fourth inning involving their favorite defector.
Machado, faced with a sure double play ahead of him, dropped into a slide to break it up despite the fact that he was 20 feet (at least) from second base.
It looked odd…because we’re used to players just relenting and taking the pathetic tag instead of contesting anything. But veterans across different eras, from Adam Jones to Larry Bowa, defended the play immediately.
The optics were certainly strange, but a lot of folks who know better say they would’ve done the same.
That did not stop Dodgers fans from hopping on the Amtrak to San Diego to throw hands, though, and Padres fans must admit they would’ve been incensed by anyone trying this in Dodger Blue.
Dodgers fans accused Manny Machado of a dirty slide vs the St. Louis Cardinals.
The question here is: what else is Machado really supposed to do here? Isn’t the “winning play” exactly what he did? If he’d laid down, melting into a double play, wouldn’t that come off as “lazy” to some of the same people attacking this? We’re just asking questions.
The context of his career matters, though. Sometimes, Machado is unfairly accused of untoward behavior just because he’s playing the game — see the Dustin Pedroia play that led to the beginning of the end of his career in Baltimore.
Sometimes the ire is extremely justified, though. Why, for example, did the Dodgers version of Machado stomp on Jesus Aguilar in the NLCS? We still don’t really understand the motivation there, considering how hard the third baseman usually plays between the lines.
The sarcastic tweets flowed from both sides late Sunday, with Dodgers fans turning this slide into the Fernando Viña/Albert Belle tackle, and Padres fans acting like the saintly Machado couldn’t possibly make a purposeful and harmful maneuver.
Whatever happens from hereon out, though, there is a good chance Machado, and not Fernando Tatis Jr., becomes the flashpoint for the Dodgers-Padres rivalry.
At a certain point, loud celebrating isn’t antagonistic enough to fuel real hatred. The Dodgers had Machado on a title-contending team, and he let them down. He struggled in the playoffs. He helped wreck the World Series, clattering to the ground as Chris Sale’s emblematic final out. And, yes, he spiked Aguilar, forcing LA fans to defend his actions before tossing him aside a few weeks later.
The calculus changed forever, though, when he signed on with the Padres and stayed in the NL West instead of joining the New York Yankees, which had been long-rumored.
Tatis Jr. will make his own history over the course of the next several years. For now, there’s far more context and internal angst that accompanies every supposedly shady move Machado makes.