Good and bad, Manny leaves impact on Dodgers
Slugger to test free agency in upcoming days as LA expects Seager's return for 2019
LOS ANGELES -- Sunday's game ended with Manny Machado on one knee, buckled by a wicked slider from Boston left-hander Chris Sale for strike three and the final out of the World Series. The next big chapter in his professional career starts in less than two weeks.
The market for Machado, who will join Bryce Harper as the top free agents when they officially become eligible to sign with a team in 10 days, is still taking shape but likely will include the Phillies and the Yankees. The Dodgers, who have injured shortstop Corey Seager returning next season, are not expected to bring him back.
"I can't even think about that," Machado said Sunday, following the Dodgers' 5-1 loss to the Red Sox. "The future? I can't even answer that question. I'm hurt right now. We just lost in the World Series, so I can't give an answer."
:: World Series schedule and results ::
Overall, Machado's tenure in Los Angeles was up and down.
Machado came under fire from Dodgers fans and media for not hustling multiple times since he was acquired from the Orioles at the All-Star break in a 5-for-1 deal that came with high expectations. L.A. envisioned him having the same type of impact Manny Ramirez provided when Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers in 2008 and led the team to a division title and the National League Championship Series.
Machado finished with a .273/.338/.487 slash line, 13 home runs and 42 RBIs in 66 regular-season games with Los Angeles. He played better defense at shortstop than most expected and re-established himself as one of the top infielders in the game. Machado also made a lot of new friends in the clubhouse along the way.
"I can't be more thankful. What a great organization and what a great group of guys here," Machado said. "Coming over here and getting traded halfway through the year is tough. You have to come meet new faces and new teammates, and guys you played against but don't know on a personal level. They welcomed me with open arms and every teammate has been amazing."
Machado excelled at making hard contact, which didn't always translate to production in 2018, but is often an indicator of the game's top hitters. His 48.2 percent hard-hit rate -- the rate at which he put balls in play at 95 mph or faster -- was among the best in baseball this season. Machado's 60 barrels -- batted balls with an exit velocity and launch-angle combination that typically result in a .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage -- ranked sixth in the Majors, behind only J.D. Martinez, Khris Davis, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton and Mookie Betts.
After joining the Dodgers on July 18, Machado tied for first in the Majors with the Brewers' NL MVP Award candidate Christian Yelich with 98 hard-hit batted balls in the second half. Machado finished the regular season with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs.
But there were a few hiccups.
Machado was criticized for failing to run out double-play grounders during the regular season, and when it happened under the microscope of the NLCS, the infielder raised a few eyebrows when he said in an interview that he'd never be "Johnny Hustle." Machado drove in three runs in Game 1 of the NLCS against Milwaukee. But the next game, Yelich called Machado a "dirty player" after the shortstop dragged his left leg into Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's back leg as he crossed first base in the 10th inning of Game 4. The contact led to a heated exchange and cleared both benches and bullpens.
But in typical Machado fashion, he hit a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch before scoring on Cody Bellinger's walk-off single during the 13th inning of the 2-1 victory. Two days later, he was penalized in Game 3 for failing to engage in a proper slide at second base, and it resulted in a double play. Machado had two hits and one walk that game.
In all, Machado had eight hits and walked twice in 30 at-bats during the NLCS. He had three hits in four games against the Braves in the NL Division Series, but two of them were home runs. Machado drove in six runs during the series and accounted for four of the six runs in the series-clinching Game 4.
Machado also drove in three runs in the 8-4 loss during Game 1 of the World Series. He later received the wrong kind of attention when Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie told Bleacher Report that Machado was relaying signs from second to his teammates with David Price on the mound in Game 2 at Fenway Park. In Game 3 of the World Series, Machado admired a drive to left thinking it was a home run, only to have it hit off the wall. He was held to a single and later referred to it as embarrassing and "very, very, very, very poor baserunning by me."
"Everyone is going to have their own opinions on everything, and the only thing that matters is these 25 guys in [the clubhouse]," Machado said. "We play for every single fan. We play for what the [Red Sox] just did and celebrated. We leave it on the field for everyone in here."
In the end, Machado hit three home runs and drove in 12 during this postseason. He had one hit in each of the first four World Series games. But Machado struck out three times in Game 5.
"Manny is a super talent and we all know that," teammate Chase Utley said. "Getting to know him, he's a good baseball player, and he knows what he is doing on a baseball field. I think everyone enjoyed being around him, and he made us a better team when he came over here. I imagine he's going to have a lot of options this winter."