Why this Padre deserves serious MVP consideration

September 21st, 2022

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and the Cardinals come to town this week, which means now is as good a time as any to ignite that National League MVP debate.
The Padres, of course, have a serious candidate of their own in Manny Machado. And among all the primary contenders -- Machado, Goldschmidt, Arenado and the Dodgers’ trio of Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and Trea Turner -- it’s Machado who has done it without the help of a fellow MVP candidate in the starting lineup.
“It’s not only numbers-wise,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “Just kind of who he is -- posting up and playing every day, playing hurt, getting big hits. … He’s probably as valuable as any player on any team.”
With just over two weeks left to play, Goldschmidt is the presumed favorite, and it’s easy to see why. He’s having a spectacular season, hitting .322/.411/.599, while leading the NL in bWAR and fWAR.

But Machado’s case shouldn’t be ignored -- particularly if he can finish strong, helping carry the Padres to their first full-season playoff berth since 2006. Machado is batting .296/.365/.531 while playing his usual outstanding defense at third base. Plus, there’s another factor that Machado’s teammates want to see count toward his MVP case:
“It’s tough to top what Goldschmidt’s doing, and Freddie’s having an unbelievable year,” said right-hander Joe Musgrove. “But [it’s about] what Manny’s done on both sides of the ball -- the offense, the defense -- and getting through the injuries and stuff that he had this year. It’s hard to make the people who make the decisions on who wins awards understand all of that. But all of us know and saw what he went through.”

What Machado went through was a gruesome-looking ankle injury in Colorado in June -- the extent of which he still hasn’t publicly disclosed. The team called it a sprain. Initially, the Padres feared Machado might be out for months. Instead, he was back 10 days later.
If Machado doesn’t win MVP, it might ultimately be because of that injury. When he returned, he played hurt. And he struggled, hitting .202 with a .694 OPS in July -- easily his worst numbers for any month.
But the fact is: He played. The Padres didn’t have Fernando Tatis Jr., and their infield options were thin. They didn’t have Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury in the lineup yet. Frankly, the team needed every bit of Machado’s .694 OPS and his glovework in July -- even if it meant his numbers took a serious hit. 
“It is all about the team for him,” Musgrove said. “I don’t think he’d ever sit out longer to make sure he’s 100 percent so he could continue on his pace. It was more about getting back and helping us win games.”
Said Jake Cronenworth: “He’s the guy we can lean on. Just like, I guess, the Cardinals have Goldy or other teams have their guys. We have Manny to lean on. When we really need somebody, that’s our guy.”