MILWAUKEE -- Chase Utley is one of the most revered athletes in Philadelphia history, not only because he put up borderline Hall of Fame numbers and helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, but because he played hard every single day.Utley's current teammate is Manny Machado.Machado is one of
MILWAUKEE -- Chase Utley is one of the most revered athletes in Philadelphia history, not only because he put up borderline Hall of Fame numbers and helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, but because he played hard every single day.
Utley's current teammate is Manny Machado.
Machado is one of baseball's greatest talents. He could command more than $300 million in free agency this offseason. The Phillies have fantasized about Machado playing shortstop or third base for them for the next decade. But there are indications inside the organization that he is making the Phillies think at least a little harder about him following his recent actions and words in the National League Championship Series.
Machado did not run hard on a groundball in the hole in Game 2. Machado answered that criticism in a FS1 interview by saying that he will never be "Johnny Hustle" and that running hard and sliding into a bag is not his "cup of tea."
Machado then got involved in a controversial play in Game 4, when he became entangled at first base with Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar. Benches and bullpens cleared. Aguilar and Machado appeared to patch things up, but afterwards, Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich said that it was a "dirty play by a dirty player."
"I mean, everybody goes about how they play a little bit differently," Utley said about Machado on Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. "He's really talented and really good and he makes everything look fairly easy."
But the last thing the Phillies want to do is hand $300 million to a player that might not fit in Philly.
The Phillies have seen how players like Carl Crawford wither on the East Coast. There are countless other players that also failed in New York, Boston and Philly.
Utley seems to think Machado can handle it. In fact, he offered an interesting comparison.
"I remember Bobby Abreu got a hard time in Philly, but I thought he played pretty hard," Utley said. "His ability to make things look easy, I think can translate to that he's not playing hard, and I don't think that's necessarily the case."
Jimmy Rollins occasionally did not run out a pop-up or groundball, but he never let any boos or criticism bother him. He finished his career as the greatest shortstop in franchise history and as a Phillies icon.
It is unclear how much value the Phillies truly place on intangibles like effort, character and clubhouse culture when they assemble a roster. But at the very least, a player's intangibles on the field and in the clubhouse should be of some consideration. The Cubs are one of the most analytically-minded teams in baseball. They recently said they need more players on the roster that have a sense of urgency to win.
The Cubs are not alone.
"I can't put a win value on it, but I certainly know it helps," Brewers general manager David Stearns said last week. "I am very confident it's one of the reasons we're here today."
If the Phillies want to do their legwork on Machado, they should find plenty of opinions about him. Machado spent most of his career with the Orioles. Phillies president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice came from Baltimore. They can ring up Buck Showalter or anybody else at any time. Manager Gabe Kapler just came from the Dodgers, and he has maintained a strong relationship with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
If the Phillies want to know what Machado is like in the clubhouse and how he is perceived among teammates, they could have Charlie Manuel call Utley and Dodgers reliever Ryan Madson in the offseason. They could talk to clubhouse attendants that have seen him interact with teammates and others.
In other words, there is no reason the Phillies should not feel confident in their pursuit of Machado this offseason one way or the other.
The guess is that Machado's comments and actions this week do not dissuade them. Machado is a once-in-a-generation talent, and they know it. If they believe he can handle the occasional mini-controversy from not running out a ball and fit into the clubhouse, they will take a run, but it no longer is an easy slam dunk.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.