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Machado clarifies 'Johnny Hustle' comment

MLB.com @feinsand

Manny Machado knows people have questions. He's looking forward to giving them answers.

The four-time All-Star shortstop is enjoying his first foray into free agency, where he is arguably the most sought-after player on the open market. Just weeks into the process, fans, executives and owners alike -- to say nothing of media types -- have been abuzz speculating about what is likely to be one of the largest contracts in North American sports history. That speculation will only increase as the offseason progresses and negotiations heat up.

Manny Machado knows people have questions. He's looking forward to giving them answers.

The four-time All-Star shortstop is enjoying his first foray into free agency, where he is arguably the most sought-after player on the open market. Just weeks into the process, fans, executives and owners alike -- to say nothing of media types -- have been abuzz speculating about what is likely to be one of the largest contracts in North American sports history. That speculation will only increase as the offseason progresses and negotiations heat up.

Machado's immense talent is undeniable, but his comments to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal during the postseason about his failure to run hard at all times have become one of the prevailing storylines during the early weeks of free agency. In an exclusive interview with MLB.com on Tuesday night, Machado took accountability for his words, most notably the memorable line: "I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,'" wishing his point had been made more clearly in that moment.

"When I was asked that question, I was definitely on the defensive, and I was wrong to answer it the way that I did, because looking back, it doesn't come across how I meant it," Machado said. "For me, I was trying to talk about how I'm not the guy who is eye wash. There's a difference between fake hustle for show and being someone who tries hard to win. I've always been the guy who does whatever he can to win for his team.

"But I know how I said it and how that came across, and it's something I take responsibility for. I look forward to talking with each GM and owner that we meet with about that, or any other questions they have."

Machado's future was the talk of baseball during the first half of the 2018 season, before the saga came to an end on July 18 with the trade that sent him from the Orioles to the Dodgers for a package of five players. The shortstop hit 13 home runs with 42 RBIs and an .825 OPS in 66 games with Los Angeles, helping the Dodgers reach the World Series for a second straight season before falling to the Red Sox in five games.

"It was cool to get to L.A. and be a part of that team," Machado said. "Coming to the Dodgers and going on that run was unbelievable. Obviously, I was disappointed that we came up short, but my hat's off to Boston for how they played. Being in the World Series definitely makes me want to get back there and win next time."

Video: WS2018 Gm5: Machado on World Series, 2018 season

Machado's future is once again in the headlines. The 26-year-old is arguably the top free agent on the market, putting him in position to land one of the richest contracts in the game's history. He has no plans to conduct his free agency through the media, but he did share that he will sit down with a handful of clubs once he's whittled down the field.

"It's been humbling to have multiple teams interested in me and have people talking about my free agency and what I should do," Machado said. "But I'm not the type of guy who is going to be out in front of a microphone for attention. That's just not my style. When the time comes, there will probably be a few of the teams that I will sit down with in person, but it's not something I plan on being very public about."

Machado wouldn't divulge which teams have expressed early interest, though he said none of those clubs have surprised him.

"Every team is different," Machado said. "So for me, it's just about figuring out a way to go through them all and eventually narrow down my choices and make a decision."

Falling short in the World Series seems to have left Machado even hungrier to get back there. He reached the postseason three times in Baltimore. But his Orioles lost to the Yankees in the 2012 American League Division Series, to the Royals in the 2014 AL Championship Series and then to the Blue Jays in the 2016 AL Wild Card Game. Joining a contender is important to the four-time All-Star, who has seen the highs and lows the game has to offer throughout his seven-year career.

"At the end of the day, I'll consider every situation carefully," Machado said. "There's a lot that goes into my decision. First and foremost, I will think about my family; where they will be comfortable and happy. I definitely want to be in a place where I can win long term and be a part of World Series teams for many years to come. It's way too early to tell what else might play a part, but I'm excited and looking forward to it."

The two markets in which Machado has played have given him a taste of everything: American League vs. National League, East Coast vs. West Coast, big market vs. small market. Playing in California presented some minor challenges -- "My home is in Miami, so it was different having my family and friends three hours later when I'd talk to them after games," he said -- but he thoroughly enjoyed his experience in L.A., leaving him open to a number of options as he contemplates his future.

"I don't think switching leagues is as big a deal as it used to be," Machado said. "Both leagues are different, but at the end of the day, you still have to hit the baseball that's coming at you the same way. I'll feel good no matter which league I'm playing in."

The size of the city is also unlikely to be an overriding factor for Machado, who pointed out that recent World Series winners have come from both big and small markets.

"I think as long as the fans are behind the team and you have a team that's going to do everything they can to win, then that's all that counts," Machado said. "Championship teams come from all over, like Kansas City from a couple years ago and Boston this year, so it can happen."

When the World Series ended, Machado and his wife, Yainee, took a vacation in Hawaii, unwinding from a long, grueling year that saw him play all 162 regular-season games and another 16 in the postseason. Despite some early-career injury issues, Machado has played 162 games twice since 2015, missing a total of 11 games during that four-year stretch.

"It's a long season, for sure, but I love it," Machado said. "I've prepared every offseason with the goal to be in the lineup every single day. It's not a coincidence; for me, it's a commitment. I've always taken that very seriously. Whatever I can do to help my team win. To me, it's not a grind. It's an honor to play every day. I've played 162 before, and I know I will again."

Last offseason, the free-agent market moved slowly, even for top players such as J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish and Eric Hosmer. Asked if he has any timetable in mind to make his decision this winter, Machado said he plans to let the process play out at its own pace.

"Danny [Lozano of MVP Sports Group], my agent, has been talking with these teams, and we have an idea so far of the next steps, but I'm not in a rush," Machado said. "It's obviously a big decision, and I'm going to take my time with my family to consider everything. When it's right, it will happen."

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Manny Machado