Manny Machado in NLCS: Dirty play or hustle gone wrong?

LOS ANGELES – Manny Machado is a supremely talented player, arguably one of the most capable all-around players in the game today. Heading into free agency, it certainly appears the 26-year-old shortstop will become one of the highest paid players in Major League Baseball.

Machado, who scored the winning run as the Dodgers beat the Brewers 2-1 in the 13th inning Tuesday night to even the National League Championship Series at two games apiece, can also be one of the most frustrating players in the game.

After admitting that hustling regularly just isn’t his style earlier in the week, Machado almost brought the NLCS to blows in the 10th inning of of Game 4 Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

When the ball arrived at first base after he grounded out to short, it appeared that Machado slowed his approach and deliberately kicked Milwaukee first baseman Jesús Aguilar’s ankle.

Aguilar understandably took exception to the play and shared his thoughts with Machado, who responded without stopping his path towards the Dodgers’ third base dugout. The words became more heated and, eventually, both benches cleared.

Social media exploded. Was Machado a dirty player making a dirty play? Did Aguilar leave his foot over too much of the base?

Or was this a not-too-subtle answer to Machado’s critics gone wrong?

UPDATE: acccording to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Machado has been fined an undisclosed amount of money for his actions in Tuesday night’s game.

On-Base Appendage

Earlier in the series Machado grounded to short and didn’t try to beat the throw to first base. The All-Star owned his lack of hustle in an interview with Rosenthal which aired on Fox before Game 4. Comments from the interview were also published at The Athletic:

“Obviously I’m not going to change. I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen,” Machado told Rosenthal. “That’s just not my personality. That’s not my cup of tea. That’s not who I am.

“Should I have run on that pitch? Yeah … but I didn’t and I gotta pay the consequences for it. It does look bad. It looks terrible. I look back at the video and I’m like, ‘Whoa, what was I doing?'”

Machado’s slides into second base have also been an issue in the NLCS. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell has challenged multiple plays involving a sliding Machado at second base. He had one call overturned in Game 3, prompting the umpires to rule out the runner heading to first for a double play.

On that play, Machado slid through second base and extended his arms into the legs of Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia. After a video review, Machado was called out for interfering with Arcia on the play. That was the second challenge of a Machado slide in Game 3.

Character Miscues

A night later Machado’s play opened the door for the entire baseball world to talk about his character even more in the wake of his comments to Rosenthal.

“It’s a dirty play by a dirty player,” said Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, the National League Most Valuable Player favorite. Yelich then used a few choice, four-letter words to describe Machado.

Counsell wasn’t as direct, but he made clear how he felt about the Dodgers’ star shortstop.

“I don’t know,” Counsell told the media. “I guess they got tangled up at first base. I don’t think [Machado’s] playing all that hard.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, didn’t say much either.

“I think it was one of those things where I think [Aguilar] had his foot on first base and didn’t give Manny a whole lot of room on the bag,” Roberts said. “I didn’t see the replay. So he stepped on his foot and I think that was what Manny was talking about. But we all worked it out.”

By “worked it out” Roberts was alluding to Machado singling in the 13th inning, taking second base on a breaking ball in the dirt and scoring from second on a Cody Bellinger single to right field.

The good follows the bad. That’s been a common narrative throughout Machado’s rise to stardom.

“I play baseball,” Machado said. “I try to go out there and win for my team. If that’s their comments, that’s their comments. I can’t do nothing about that.”

Featured Image: Harry How/Getty Images