Nick Markakis and the Orioles are linked in the news again, months after he signed with Atlanta instead. It's not a friendly connection, with Markakis telling USA Today Sports, "Don't believe a word (the Orioles) say" with regard to his departure.
Before flying in either direction about this story - either anger at Markakis for talking about it, or at the Orioles for any perceived disrespect they may have given Markakis as the talks to re-sign him fell apart - one thing to keep in mind is that none of us were in the room when it was discussed and we don't know what question resulted in the given quotes or how mad Markakis seemed about it.
In my limited experience in being a part of player interviews, I've seen a few times where a quote plays very differently when excerpted for an article or a tweet than it did when it was spoken. Tone and nuance are lost. That's the nature of the modern media landscape, and it's not like Markakis has multiple tones to his speech anyway.
Okay, so that said, here's the rest of it:
"It was all because of my neck,'' Markakis told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. "They can say what they want to make them look good. Don't believe anything they say. It's all B.S."
That certainly reads angry. Maybe he is angry. The thing that confuses me is this: Didn't we already know it was basically all because of his neck? When the offseason began, the return of Markakis to the Orioles seemed like an inevitability, then something happened and it was no longer inevitable because the O's weren't firm on wanting to offer four years to Markakis.
The Braves swooped in and scooped him up, good for them and him for doing so. Before the ink was even dry on the contract, there was a news story that Markakis was "leaning towards" neck surgery, which he ultimately did have. It's not much of a shock that the Orioles would have had a concern about that, conscious as they are of what's on a player's physical.
In the immediate aftermath of Markakis signing with the Braves, Duquette said that the club "had a concern that was an issue for us." He did not state what it was at the time, but the Baltimore Sun connected the dots in reporting that industry sources confirmed that the O's were concerned about Markakis' neck. It wasn't much of a secret.
Duquette's comments on the matter were appreciative of what Markakis had done for the Orioles but also clear that they felt it was time to move on. Granted, we were not in the room for any of the negotiations, so we have no way of knowing whether the O's jerked around Markakis' side, reneging on an oral agreement for contract parameters or anything like that. Something like that would make the anger more understandable, being rejected by the only franchise he'd ever played for up until then.
Still, Duquette was polite enough about the departure. What is there to not believe? Would Markakis have been happier if the Orioles' public quotes afterwards had been, "Well, we think he's old and broken and he might suck and be a complete waste of money?" That is one of the possible outcomes. The Braves may well experience it.
Markakis might have been a bad signing at four years and $44 million even without the neck concerns. In general, baseball players don't play better heading into their mid-30s than they did in their mid-20s and Markakis had just come off two seasons where he batted a combined .274/.335/.371. That's not a player you want to overpay.
Absent any further information, it all sounds like a bunch of hurt feelings. And while that is entirely understandable for Markakis to be feeling that way, it's also not news.
This is a real headline from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today: "Braves OF Markakis may not be ready for opening day"
So yes, Nick, it was probably about your neck. We already knew.