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Yanks will regret it if they don't get Manny

January 8, 2019

The idea that the Yankees ever needed a meet-and-greet with Manny Machado, just as a way of taking his measure, was such a funny notion from the start that I thought it should have come with its own laugh track. Anybody, and especially anybody from the American League East, who

The idea that the Yankees ever needed a meet-and-greet with Manny Machado, just as a way of taking his measure, was such a funny notion from the start that I thought it should have come with its own laugh track. Anybody, and especially anybody from the American League East, who doesn't know exactly what to expect from Machado at this point in his career hasn't been paying very close attention. And if the Yankees, knowing what they already know and having seen what they've seen from him as an opponent, want Machado, they should make sure they get him before the White Sox or Phillies do.
"You know what you're getting," Buck Showalter, who managed every game of Machado's big league career until he was traded from the Orioles to the Dodgers in July, said on Tuesday afternoon.
Showalter watched Machado come up and grow up, at least to a point. He knows Machado and understands him as well as any manager can understand any young gifted player put in his charge. Buck knows his strengths and his weaknesses, and when I asked him whether he'd want Machado on his team if he were still managing he said, "I'd take him."
Then he laughed and said, "And if the Yankees wanted to be even more hated by Boston than they already are, then they should go ahead and sign Manny if they can. Because I can tell you from personal experience, they don't like him much over there."
I asked him whether he would play Machado at third base or shortstop and Showalter said, "I know he wants to play shortstop, but in my opinion he's more impactful at third."

I have no idea if the Yankees really are set on getting Machado or how much money it would take to sign him. I have no idea how many years it is going to take. I just know that the people in charge of the Yankees aren't merely fixated on beating the Red Sox. They are obsessed with beating the Red Sox. I also know, having had a front-row seat to the business of the Yankees for a very long time, that Yankee fans don't want to hear about how much money the Yankees are and aren't willing to spend these days. Want to know why? Because those Yankee fans saw the Red Sox go out and get J.D. Martinez last winter and then win their fourth World Series in 15 years. The Yankees have won one over that period.
On Tuesday, I asked a friend of mine who is as smart and loyal as any Yankee fan I know, one who follows his team as if he's scouting it, what he thought about the prospect of Machado coming to the Bronx. This is what he said in an e-mail:
"The case for Manny: Even with some baggage, he is an elite hitter, and available on the market at an age when elite talent seldom becomes available to teams on the open market. There is no reason to think he cannot remain an elite hitter for another six seasons or so. And if the goal is to overtake the Red Sox, then they need to be every bit as relentless as the team they are chasing. There is no doubt in my mind that if the situation were reversed, the guys from Boston would be going after him. That's how they have rolled for the last 20 years. My guys can convince themselves their lineup is every bit as good as the Sox lineup -- it isn't. Even with a healthy Didi Gregorius, it isn't."
He's right. It isn't as good a lineup. There is more balance in the Red Sox's batting order, there is more versatility with their hitters. With the Red Sox, it isn't home runs or strikeouts and hardly anything in between. Would the Yankees be considering Machado if Gregorius hadn't gotten hurt and undergone Tommy John surgery? Probably not. Would they be after Machado instead of Bryce Harper if Brian Cashman hadn't made his big splash and big deal for big Giancarlo Stanton last winter? I frankly doubt it.
But they are where they are, which means without Gregorius. They saw the Red Sox win the AL East at Yankee Stadium, and they saw the Red Sox close out their AL Division Series against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and they heard the Red Sox make "New York, New York" almost as much an anthem as "Sweet Caroline" after Aaron Judge played "New York, New York" on his way out of Fenway after the Yankees' only win in that ALDS.
Does Machado make them better than the Red Sox? Nobody can say that. But he makes the Yankees better, without question. And again: You know what you're getting. You know all he had to do when he got to the Dodgers was keep his mouth shut until he became a free agent and he didn't do it. He said he wasn't "Johnny Hustle." Do I think Machado meant it? Absolutely. Do a lot of players think that way? You bet they do. They just don't say it. He did. That's the way he rolls. Showalter used to joke that if everybody else was wearing a black T-shirt at batting practice, no one was surprised if Manny wore orange.
"But understand that this is one competitive [guy]," Showalter said. "When he screws up, and he does, it's like, 'Fine, bring it on.' He knows he has the ability to overpower you, talent-wise."
If the Yankees want him, they should go get him. Before somebody else does.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.