Machado unfazed by controversy, Fenway boos

October 22nd, 2018

BOSTON -- Manny Machado was offered an opportunity to apologize. Or to, you know, set the record straight. On the eve of his first World Series, that would seem to be a nice little "kick the storyline down the road" way to go.

The Dodgers shortstop -- acquired from the Orioles at the All-Star break -- could have acknowledged what pretty much everyone in the game knows: At times, he has let his raging competitive fire get the best of him.

On the other hand, why bother? Is there anything that could change the narrative at this point? Besides, Machado seems to be holding up just fine as the designated villain of this postseason. What's a few boos compared to playing in a World Series?

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"It's unbelievable to be here," Machado said. "Everyone dreams about this. It's not easy getting here. Lot of obstacles. Lot of hard work. I'm truly blessed. It can't come any quicker."

That said, he also knows what's coming. When the Red Sox and Dodgers are announced before Game 1 of the World Series tonight at Fenway Park, Machado is going to get the loudest boos, and he's fine with that.

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That's a reaction to a hard slide into Red Sox second baseman in April 2017 and to a string of plays this postseason in which Machado -- and let's phrase this gently -- could have used better judgment, especially in his kicking of Brewers first baseman in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

Can fans in Boston boo any louder than Brewers fans did at Miller Park last week in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS?

"We're going to get booed no matter what," Machado said. "We're not in our territory. We're going to go out and try to compete as well as we can and leave it on the field and come out with a victory tomorrow."

Back to that chance to apologize. When Machado was asked on Monday if he sometimes does things in the heat of the moment that he regrets, he was blunt.

"You know what?" he said. "When you're on the field, things stay on the field. You play hard for your ballclub. You're trying to win games. You're trying to get to the World Series. I got here. I'm trying to win the World Series. Whatever happened on the field, happened on the field. There's really nothing more to say."

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So there.

"The game's changed," Machado said. "We're unfortunate that we have social media, Twitter, you know, Instagram and all that stuff. Just going to keep playing the game. Going to keep worrying about my team, keep worrying about winning a World Series."

Some of the people who know him best swear by his character. One of those is Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce. He and Machado were teammates for three-plus seasons in Baltimore, and Pearce calls him "the best person I know in the game" while acknowledging he does occasionally cross lines.

"He plays hard," Pearce said, "and sometimes, emotions get the best of him. But I know what kind of guy he is off the field. He's a great guy."

Has anyone tried to fix Machado's ways?

"Players talked to him," Pearce said, "but that's just who he is. He's a great player. It's just who he is. He's not trying to hurt anybody."

In other words, to have Machado on your team, you have to accept every part of Manny. In the last five seasons -- all but three months with the Orioles -- Machado established himself as a dazzling talent. Not only did he average 34 doubles and 28 home runs, but he also played third base at such a high level that he became the first player who fans in Baltimore compared favorably to Brooks Robinson, which is the highest compliment an Orioles player can receive.

This season, Machado asked to move back to shortstop, his original position, and has proven himself all over again in recent weeks.

He has an .813 OPS in 11 postseason games for the Dodgers, and it was a full-count bunt single in Game 7 of the NLCS that opened the door for 's two-run home run on the way to a 5-1 Dodgers victory and second straight World Series trip.

At 26 years old, Machado is expected to be one of the two most sought-after free agents this offseason, along with . Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp said anyone who thinks Machado is a dirty player should sit back and watch the offers pour in over the winter.

"Years ago, you slide like that into second base, it's a normal play," Kemp said. "Flipping guys, taking them into left field, that used to be normal. Go Google it. It's baseball. I'm not going to tell him how to play the game. He plays the game the way he wants to. He's a grown man. He loves to play the game. He's passionate about the game. He wants to win.

"That doesn't say anything about the character of the teammate. He's a great teammate. The guys love him in the clubhouse. Manny's gonna be Manny, and he's gonna play hard. In the offseason, it's really going to show how much of an impact player he is. Teams are going to be paying a lot of big bucks for that, and he deserves it."