The Manny Machado era in Baltimore was … an experience.
I’ve been a fan of Orioles’ baseball since I ran the bases at Camden Yards with my Little League team as a goofy 7-year-old first-baseman, and I’ve yet to feel this way about a player leaving my hometown team. When Nick Markakis left for Atlanta in 2014? I was devastated. When our team traded Jake Arrieta to the Cubs, only for him to become the best pitcher on a World Series team? I was frustrated.
But on the verge of the imminent Manny trade? I feel an almost uninspired apathy about the departure of a stylish and often likable player who has been the face of our franchise for the better part of the last seven years (and former STYLE cover model). He’s been a great player, but we are still losing.
As a lanky, 19-year-old rookie, Manny glided across the field. His anticipation and poetic grace at third base were something this city hadn’t seen since the great Brooks Robinson. And that isn’t even accounting for his elite, effortless power at the plate. He led the American League in doubles at the age of 20, and in 2017, became the first Oriole to record 270 extra-base hits before turning 25, just the 30th player in baseball history to do so at that age.
But baseball isn’t only about numbers. Hustling is one of the most important aspects of the game. During that same season in which I sprinted across the diamond at Camden Yards, I took a leisurely stroll to first base during one of my Little League games. It was a groundout to the pitcher and I knew I had no chance of beating it out, so I jogged to first base. My coach reamed me out for the transgression in front of my teammates when I got to the bench, and I deserved it. From that point forward, I ran out every ball to first.
Physically, Manny is superhuman, but mentally, he’s still that Little-Leaguer that doesn’t run out routine ground balls and pop-ups. In a series against the Mariners just three weeks ago, he had to apologize for not running out a double play ball after Baltimore fans serenaded him with a chorus of boos — a bizarre farewell for one of the few Orioles otherwise performing well this season.
Manny needs a change in scenery to restore his passion for the game, and the Orioles need to retool their farm system. But man, does this feel weird. I’ll miss his easy, serene grace on the diamond and his efforts in revitalizing a team that hadn’t seen much success before his arrival.
He’s a top 15 player leaving the hometown team that drafted him, but I am ready to see the next face of the franchise.
Image courtesy of the Manny Machado official Instagram.