It was Manny being Manny and that’s what the Padres purchased for $300 million.
Manny Machado flipped the persona of the frugal Padres when he signed his 10-year, mega-deal in the offseason. The acquisition of the All-Star infielder signaled to rivals that the Padres were no longer a doormat, no longer known as a franchise rivals could mock, no longer a pushover in between the lines when competing with players better suited for the minors.
But Machado came with baggage and it’s not the manageable amount that savvy travelers know how to squeeze into overhead bins. While acquiring Machado’s immeasurable skills, they also absorbed the Machado that makes him a villain in every ballpark around the league.
That Machado was reprimanded for acting anything like an All-Star representative of all things Padres. When disputing a questionable strike three call by plate umpire Bill Welke in Denver last weekend, Machado blew a gasket.
One didn’t have to be a prolific lip reader to decipher the salty language Machado used, a stream of profanities that would once get a mouth washed out with soap. His tirade included what Welke claimed, but the video didn’t necessarily support, was Machado making contact with the veteran umpire.
That’s an automatic fine and suspension and Major League Baseball penalized Machado with both. Machado has appealed his suspension, so we’re not certain if he’ll have to sit in the corner for a contest.
Regardless of what the MLB executives determine, Machado is doing a disservice in misbehaving in the way he did. If he had a beef with the ump, which is as much a part of baseball as Cracker Jack and hot dogs, then he should be allowed to voice his displeasure.
But there’s a right way to do it. Machado going off the rails and becoming unhinged is unbecoming of what the Padres, in my mind, stand for. After verbally abusing Welke, Machado slammed his helmet into the turf and flung his bat to the backstop as if he was the first player to be on the wrong end of a controversial decision.
It was a bad look for a great player. It was an uncomfortable moment for an organization which strives to be a pillar in the community and deserves the accolades that accompany it doing just that with its immense charity work.
The Padres, led by owners Peter Seidler and Ron Fowler, are to be commended for all the goodwill they distribute as the region’s only professional team among North America’s four major sports. They are a shining example of what America’s Finest City offers and that can’t be ignored.
But neither can Machado’s behavior and here’s why: thousands of San Diego County kids got a firsthand look at his temper tantrum.
Big deal, you say? It really is and if no one wants to say it, that’s on them. A prime example of the fallout is what happened at a North County youth baseball game this spring.
Among Machado’s transgressions was his attempt to injure Jesus Aguilar in last season’s playoffs by veering toward the Milwaukee Brewers first baseman when running down the line for the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was unbecoming at any level, but particularly for a major-leaguer to do it to a colleague. Machado was roasted by Aguilar’s teammates and fined by the MLB.
So when a 13-year-old kid recently mimicked Machado’s actions in a playoff game, the reaction in the stands was swift and predictable.
“I guess it’s OK if Machado can do it,” one spectator said.
“The Padres gave Machado $300 million and he did it,” another chirped.
That wasn’t the end of the comments but one gets the drift. The actions of the teenager, who was promptly and rightfully ejected from the game, came with a shrug instead of criticism.
Longtime Padres fans grew up with the classy Tony Gwynn. Or they remember how Trevor Hoffman conducted himself. And while they represent to many just retired numbers at Petco Park, Randy Jones, Dave Winfield and Steve Garvey never tarnished the Padres’ legacy.
Let alone what Jackie Robinson, whose No. 42 is saluted in every ballpark, had to endure when breaking the color barrier in 1947.
Here’s hoping Machado remembers others, especially our youth, are watching him play. Many of those youngsters seek role models, and again, we understand Machado isn’t being compensated with the richest contract in Padres history to be one.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t.
Photo via Youtube
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports