With the Orioles 20 games below .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League East, hopes for the 2018 season appear to be over. There are still four months of regular season baseball left, but the Orioles own among the worst records in the majors and would need a comeback of historic proportion to even sniff the second AL Wild Card spot.
Along with the struggles of the current Orioles ball-club, the organization faces a massive cloud of uncertainty following the 2018 season with the contracts of both manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette expiring. There are also a handful of impending free agents on the Orioles’ roster, including Manny Machado.
Even though the Orioles’ front office refuses to talk publicly about their plans beyond 2018, trading Machado would allow the franchise to begin a much-needed rebuilding process. The return for Machado will pale in comparison to what the O’s could have pulled in for their superstar shortstop last year, but contending teams will still deal to rent Machado and possibly sign him long-term in the offseason.
With the impending Machado trade seemingly days or weeks away, let’s look back at some of Machado’s top moments in an Orioles uniform.
1. Hitting two home runs in his second MLB game
Machado made his Major League Orioles debut on Aug. 9, 2012 against the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards. This came after Machado slashed .266 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI in 109 games with the Bowie Baysox. On that Thursday night in Baltimore, Machado went 2-for-4 at the plate with two hits, including a triple.
The next night, Machado went 2-for-4 again, but this time he hit his first two major league home runs. The first was a fifth inning solo shot off Luke Hochevar. An inning later, Machado got the best of Hochever again as the then 20-year-old blasted a three-run home run to left field, giving the Orioles a 7-1 lead that would end up being the game’s final score.
2. Veteran-like instincts weeks into MLB career
Machado provided a number of memories during his abbreviated rookie season in 2012, but one that sticks out would have to be his heads-up fake throw that ultimately allowed the Orioles to defeat the Rays 3-2 on Sept. 12.
With the game tied at 2 in the ninth inning, the Rays had pinch-runner Rich Thompson at second base with two outs and Evan Longoria at the plate. Longoria hit a soft ground ball down to Machaco at third. Rather than making the throw over to first, the rookie third basemen faked the throw, turned around and flipped the ball to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was backing up third. Hardy chased Longoria down the baseline before tossing the ball to catcher Matt Wieters, who finally tagged Thompson for the final out of the inning.
Machado would also score the winning run for the O’s in the bottom of the ninth. After singling to first base to lead off the inning, Andino advanced Machado to second on a sacrifice bunt, and then Nate McLouth singled to right field to bring home Machado and walk it off for the Birds. Even though Machado’s rookie year only saw him on the Major League roster for the final two months of the regular season, he was a crucial part in the O’s making the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons.
3. Perhaps the greatest “Machadian” play of all time
Although Machado wants to continue his career at his natural shortstop position, he was arguably the top third basemen in the major leagues from 2012-17. Machado is a two-time Gold Glove winner (2013, 2015) who’s made too many plays like the one above for O’s fans to count.
This particular play came on Jul. 7, 2013 against the New York Yankees. In the sixth inning, Luis Cruz hit a hard ground ball that rolled down the third base line just inside of foul territory. Machado knocked the ball down with his glove, but it bounced out and rolled into foul territory, where Machado scooped the ball bare-handed and had to turn his body to make a very hard throw over to first base. Not only did Machado pull it off, but the throw was so perfect that Chris Davis did not need to move to make the play.
The Yankees led the Orioles 1-0 at the time of this play, but the O’s went on to win 2-1 behind a two-run home run in the ninth inning by Jones.
4. Robbing one of the all-time greats
Cruz is just one on a long list of names to have gotten robbed on the base paths by Machado. In the 11’th inning of a scoreless July 2014 tangle with the Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols hit a ball down to third base that forced Machado to stumble into foul territory. Even with an umpire in the way this time, Machado snagged the ball, quickly gained control of his body, and threw a laser over to Steve Pearce at first base for the first out of the inning. The game ended in the 13’th inning when Pujols hit a single that scored the winning run, giving the Angels a hard-earned 1-0 win.
5. Coming through in the clutch
Machado played in all 162 games in 2015, a season that resulted in his second career Gold Glove award. In mid-August after a 4-5 road trip, the Orioles opened a 10-game homestand with a four-game set against the Oakland Athletics.
The Friday series opener against Oakland went into the 13’th inning tied at 6. In the Orioles’ half, Junior Lake struck out to lead off the inning, but Caleb Joseph doubled off Drew Pomeranz, prompting Oakland manager Bob Melvin to pull Pomeranz and bring in Aaron Brooks with Machado due at the plate. After a first-pitch strike, Machado took Brooks’s 80-MPH pitch to the first few rows behind the left field wall to walk it off for the Orioles.
Machado finished the 2015 season with his second-highest totals in batting average (.286) and home runs (35). It was a good sign following Machado’s two knee injuries that ended his 2013 and 2014 seasons prematurely. He has not suffered any significant injuries since.
6. Fight with hot-head pitcher Yordano Ventura
Before I break down this infamous moment, I would like to state that this is in no way picking fun at the late Yordano Ventura, who passed away in early 2017 in a car crash in the Dominican Republic.
Ventura’s passing was very unfortunate and felt all around baseball. However, Ventura was known to be a hot head who has an in-game fight compilation on YouTube. One of Ventura’s most famous incidents came in June 2016 against Machado. No known issues between Machado and Ventura existed before this incident, but the Royals were the ones who brought Baltimore’s 2014 American League East-winning season to an end in the ALCS.
In the second inning of a beautiful Tuesday night ballgame, Ventura threw high and inside to Machado. On the next pitch, Machado smacked the ball to left field which traveled far, but was caught for an out. When Machado hit the ball, he was a little slow out of the box. This apparently angered Ventura, who exchanged words with Machado following the play.
During Machado’s next at-bat in the fifth inning, Ventura hit him on a pitch that traveled inside and struck Manny in the left rib cage. Machado charged the mound, threw some punches at Ventura, and took him to the ground before the benches cleared and broke up the fight. Both players got ejected and served suspensions for this incident. This was the second career suspension for Machado, the first occurring in 2014 from an incident in which Machado threw his bat at then-Oakland A’s third basemen Josh Donaldson.
Since the fight with Ventura, Machado’s in-game demeanor has calmed, and he has not gotten into an fight since. Last year, Machado became involved in drama with the Red Sox that stemmed from a controversial late slide where Machado injured Boston legend Dustin Pedroia.
Red Sox pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Matt Barnes threw at Machado multiple times after the slide. Rather than charging the mound as he had done the previous season, Machado remained calm and let the umpires determine the proper punishment for Barnes, who was ejected. Afterwards, Machado responded the right way, hitting a double to score a run. Pundits have labeled Machado a “hot head” for his behavior in incidents like 2014 with Donaldson and 2016 with Ventura, but his maturity in this instance was nice to see for Orioles fans.
7. Putting the team on his back
On Aug. 7, 2016, the Orioles defeated the White Sox 10-2 in Chicago. Seven of the 10 Baltimore runs were plated by Machado, who went 3-for-6 with a three-run home run and two separate two-run home runs.
Machado finished the 2016 season with career-highs in batting average (.294), home runs (37) and RBI (96).
8. Opening Day magic
Machado’s defensive greatness was on full display right away in 2017 when he made an amazing play in the 11’th inning of the Orioles’ Opening Day game against the Blue Jays. Toronto second basemen Devon Travis became Machado’s latest victim on another sharply-hit ball down to third base. Machado had to dive to his right side to secure the ball, and then he made a hard throw off his back knee in time to record the out.
In the bottom half of that same inning, Mark Trumbo hit a walk-off solo home run to win it for the Birds by a score of 3-2.
9. Turning two with his best friend
It’s no secret that Machado’s relationship with fellow infielder Jonathan Schoop goes beyond the baseball diamond. The two regularly joke around in the dugout and on the field, something that’s been caught on television even more in 2018 due to Machado’s position switch from third base to shortstop.
Since 2014, Machado and Schoop have turned several double plays as regular starters in the Orioles’ infield. In the bottom of the first inning during a July 2017 game against the Rays, Machado and Schoop turned a beautiful double play to rob Longoria. Machado stretched into foul territory while controlling his body and made a perfect throw to Schoop at second base for the first out. Schoop quickly pivoted his left foot to get the throw over to Trumbo at first base for the second out of the 5-4-3 double play.
The Orioles went on to win 5-0 with Machado (2-RBI single) and Schoop (sac fly) aiding the Baltimore offense in the shutout victory.
10. Two-home run, six-RBI game versus Tampa
With Machado set to hit the free agent market following the 2018 season, the 25-year old is off to an MVP-caliber season at the plate. Machado currently leads the majors in RBI with 44, hitting on a Baltimore offense that has scored 207 runs this season, 24’th in the majors.
On May 11 (also against Tampa), Machado plated six runs in the Orioles’ 9-4 win over the Rays at Camden Yards. He hit a two-run home run in the first inning and a grand slam in the seventh inning, becoming the youngest player in Orioles history to reach 150 career home runs in the process.
In the ninth inning Machado and Schoop flashed the leather yet again, combining for a 6-4-3 double play in which Machado flipped the ball from his glove to Schoop for the first out.
Machado’s days in an Orioles uniform are numbered, possibly making this performance against the Rays the last time the Orioles feel the type of impact that he can have on a single game. As the days go by, the Orioles can only hope that Machado delivers more of these performances to maximize the return package for his services.
Image Credit: FanSided