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Old habits die hard for Manny Machado, whose postseason behavior we’ve seen before

The Manny Machado who showed up to the 2018 NLCS and World Series is the same one A’s fans remember from 2014

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Oakland Athletics v Baltimore Orioles
Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson had words after Machado was tagged out to end the third inning in 2014.
Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Every Oakland fan’s favorite infielder, Manny Machado, hasn’t changed one bit and is exactly the same person and player that we saw back in 2014. He most recently spent the 2018 National League Championship Series between (his new team) the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers using dirty tactics, throwing temper tantrums, and using the strategy of outright denial to explain his actions much like he did against the A’s back in 2014.

His behavior in this year’s NLCS elicited similar reactions from the Milwaukee Brewer’s fans, other players, baseball writers and analysts, and Major League Baseball, as it did four years ago, and those reactions are far from positive. The excuses used to justify a 21-year-old Machado’s behavior, namely immaturity, no longer apply in 2018. At the age of 26 and seven years into his big league career, Machado should not still be acting like a punk.

2018 Postseason:

Machado’s actions this postseason began during this year’s NLCS and included: his failing to hustle out a grounder, being called out for a dangerously hard slide at second base (which happened a second time that game), becoming seemingly confused after taking a third strike when the home plate umpire refused his request for a “timeout” and, most importantly, starting a benches clearing brawl when he appeared to have deliberately attempted to kick Brewers’ first baseman Jesus Aguilar in the ankle as he ran across first base in Game 4.

The events of the first half of the NLCS didn’t leave anyone happy, especially the Brewers’ fans who were relentless in their pursuit of booing Machado as much and as often as they could. They didn’t come out with quite the creative signage and props as we did here in Oakland, but it sounded much like any of the last few seasons when Machado has returned to the Coliseum. MLB was also not pleased, fining Machado $10,000 for intentionally taking aim at another player.

The fine was a warning to stop his inexcusable behaviors prior to the first game of the 2018 World Series.

Brewers’ star outfielder Christian Yelich had some strong words about Machado,

“He’s a player that has a history of those types of incidents,” said Yelich. “A dirty play by a dirty player. It absolutely is. One time is an accident. Repeated over and over and over again, you’re just a dirty player. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, but you can’t respect someone who plays the game like that.”

It isn’t often that ballplayers talk that way about their own. Being a player is like a club and more often than not they stick together in most circumstances. As we’ve seen both recently and in 2014, that doesn’t seem to include Machado.

Now three games into the 2018 World Series and Machado is making noise yet again. Sign-stealing is now the issue and a ridiculous one to debate — decoding signs from second base is really more of a skill, in my opinion — but because he’s Manny Machado it’s again a trending topic. Sign-stealing while on base, or anywhere else, is not illegal (stealing signs wasn’t mentioned in the MLB Rule book until 1961, when “using a mechanical device,” to gain the advantage in a game was banned. Sandy Alderson amended that rule in 2000 to also include “electric devices”). Basically, while it’s not against the rules, sign-stealing is seen by many as being “a part of the game” but is often viewed by others as a breach of etiquette. There was nothing subtle about Machado’s “breach of etiquette” in Game 2, naturally adding to his already shady, and still growing, reputation.

2014 - The Recap

So what actually happened between the A’s and Machado in 2014? If you don’t remember, no worries! Here’s a quick overview. In 2014 his actions in an early June series between the A’s and the Orioles at Camden Yards included having words with then-A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson over a perceived “hard tag” that supposedly sent Machado stumbling backward in Lebron James-esque over-the-top flop fashion. That altercation caused the benches to clear, and later for O’s pitcher Wei-Yin Chen to throw at and hit Donaldson.

Despite an uneventful Saturday, animosity was still in the air. Machado hit catcher Derek Norris not once, but twice with his backswing. That could be seen as innocent enough, but it was Machado’s failure to check on Norris’ condition, and worse, being caught on camera smirking after knocking Norris out of the game, that sparked more outrage from the A’s (and especially fellow catcher Stephen Vogt).

When Fernando Abad came in to start the eighth inning he appeared to throw a couple pitches low and inside at the knees of Machado. On the next pitch Machado clearly swung late, nowhere near the ball, and he let his bat fly — presumably at Abad, but the bat went down the third base line where Donaldson would have been if he hadn’t just been replaced defensively by Alberto Callaspo. Whoever he’d hoped to hit with the bat is a non-issue; we all know that kind of behavior is not acceptable in the baseball.

We also know that Machado made this statement after the game, refusing to take any responsibility for his blatant actions.

Yeah, right.

Quite like what happened during this year’s NLCS, people took notice both locally and nationally, along with of course MLB. Machado ended up with (after a failed appeal attempt) a five-game suspension.

So now what?

Now we wait. We wait to see what else, if anything, happens in the World Series. We wait to see if Machado’s most recent actions on the field will affect the big payday he has been expecting to see when he hits free agency after the conclusion of the World Series. In 2014 using “immaturity” as an excuse for Machado’s tantrums seemed reasonable given he was young and in his second full big league season. However, he no longer has that excuse. He has seven seasons in the majors and is now 26 years old, meaning it’s beyond time for him to change his ways.

He’s an incredible athlete — that part of Machado’s makeup is undeniable — but he’s also a player who makes unacceptable, dirty plays, often meant to harm his opponents. That’s not the reputation anyone wants to have, but it’s the one he’s gaining thanks to his repeated transgressions and failure to grow up.