I'm a 1991 child, so naturally, I grew up watching movies made by the likes of Adam Sandler (the good Adam Sandler movies), Chris Farley and Ben Stiller.
One of my all-time favorites, undoubtedly, is the potent quotable "Zoolander".
A film chalk-full of one-liners, mixed with a family who speaks almost exclusively in movie quotes makes "Zoolander" a repeat-offender, in terms of how often we tend to recite lines from the male model extravaganza. It just so happens, one of the top two or three quotes from that movie comes from Will Ferrell (shocker, I know), when he says "Hansel, he's so hot right now. Hansel". For a while now, that line has been my go-to for any Oriole that tends to get hot at the plate for any extended period of time, and for about the last three weeks, I've used it more than ever, looking at my dad and saying "Manny, he's so hot right now. Manny".
He chuckles every time.
As hot as Hansel was in 2001, Manny is just as, if not more hot in the present day. Even though Machado ended the month of April with an OK .254/.235/.479 slash, as a tremendous second-half of the month salvaged a 5-44 start to the season. Though the Orioles as a whole were an offensive disaster in May, Machado held his own, slashing .281/.339/.465 with four home runs 10 RBI's. There were baby-steps being made at the plate, as more and more consistent at-bats showed Machado was embracing his new role as the leadoff man for a team needing such.
So far in June, Machado's reminding baseball he's a superstar.
In 21 games this month, Machado is slashing a white-hot .379/.426/.632 with 6 HR's and 17 RBI's, all as the leadoff man. His .379 average in June is the fifth-highest in all of baseball, while his wRC+ and OBP are 8th and 10th, respectively. In batted ball terms, Manny's using the opposite field slightly more, as a 2% bump in oppo-boppos have taken place. Most noticeably, Machado is pulling the ball at a significantly higher rate (39% in June compared to 33% in May), a sign that Manny is seeing the baseball as if it were a beach ball.
A leadoff hitter's job is to find a way on base and prolong at-bats, giving his comrades a chance to see what the starting pitcher will be featuring on a given night. Though the home runs have been there, Manny's ability to hit the ball on the ground and find holes in the infield has been paramount for the Orioles at the top of the order, as his GB/FB rate has been a solid 1.30. Has he been able to find his way on base? Most definitely. Machado's 10.6 K% is a solid nine points lower than both May and June, while his BABIP sits at a very above-average .380. He's been a terror.
Manny Machado is a superstar, and he always has been, but this 2015 season hasn't been a reemergence (as I've seen other sites calling it), but instead it's been a reminder. There never seemed to be a doubt that Manny was going to be special, it was just a matter of when the 3rd-overall pick in 2010 would permanently turn the offensive corner. Maybe, just maybe, he's doing it right in front of us, at this exact point in time.
We know the history of past Orioles' draft picks. With the exception of Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters, O's fans have witnessed the triumphant failures of Adam Loewen, Brandon Snyder and Billy Rowell, among plenty others. When a franchise is able to draft a talent such as Machado, there is a unique bond among the fan-base and the player, because the joy of watching a homegrown talent actually pan out is one of the many things that makes baseball great.
For the Orioles, seeing so many wasted picks thinned out on the farm, while other organizations flourish with young talent has probably been the single-most frustrating aspect of being a diehard O's fan. With Manny, despite the knee surgeries, the O's nailed it, and after a pitstop, he's back on the road to superstardom.
From someone that's not in the Orioles clubhouse (though I wouldn't mind being Wei-Yin Chen's translator or something), I'm sure there's a lot of praise in the locker room for the job that Manny's done in the leadoff hole, especially because he isn't supposed to be hitting at the very top of the order. His future is somewhere from 2-5 in the lineup, not being a pesky out with under-utilized pop. But you know, I've seen a few other outlets still call for action regarding Manny's maturity issues, but being a team player is sacrificing the potential for big-time stats in the heart of the order for the unheralded leadoff spot. That's a veteran move.
Even as I watch this Bud Norris implosion, Manny leads off the game with a blister up the middle, while being robbed of two more potential hits on line drives hit right at Red Sox defenders. You know a guy is hot when Pablo Sandoval has to do things out of the ordinary to get him out.
Manny's back, yes, but he's been flying under the radar for the past month-and-a-half. June just so happened to be an explosion. He's a star, he's the face of the Orioles future, and he's our Baby-Faced Assasin.
And he's better than ever.