The Orioles have a good one in Manny Machado.
Only three years ago, Machado was discussed in the Mike Trout/Bryce Harper sphere of best young players baseball had to offer, but consecutive season-ending knee surgeries sort of, kind of drifted Machado into a forgotten purgatory. To no fault of his own, Machado was somewhat disrespected heading into 2015, despite a career .278/.313/.434 slash with 33 HRs and 128 RBIs in three seasons prior to turning only 23 years-old.
Despite the Orioles' averageness as a unit, Machado has re-established himself right back into the conversation of baseball's elite talents. In 151 games, the young Hakuna Machado has hit an astounding .289/.360/.493 with 30 HRs and 77 RBIs, almost exclusively as the O's leadoff hitter. As well as showing the growing power the Orioles previous front office had predicted, Machado continues to make the difficult plays at the hot corner look routine, and the impossible plays appear to be nothing more than a momentary annoyance.
Machado, a rising star with the bat and glove is an easy capture for those of Baltimore. However, it seems that his previous bouts with immaturity have made the baseball world just slightly hesitant to accept him with open arms.
I'll admit, I defended Manny during and after the Josh Donaldson incident, almost entirely for the sole fact that I was very anti-Oakland a season ago. I also, for only the slightest of moments, took Manny's side after he attempted to throw a bat at Fernando Abad the very next day. I'm not proud of it, and I'm sure Mr. Machado is the first one to look back on the whole thing and wonder what the hell he was thinking.
As much as you wish those kind of moments wouldn't appear in the career scope of Machado once he's retired and gone, they won't. There is still the chance of blow-ups somewhere down the line, as we've seen a few times this season, but in Machado's case, it isn't necessarily a detriment. This is more or less what baseball is becoming.
I'm not referring to the outrageous showcases of fury, but that subtle (OK, not so subtle) swagger that is becoming more and more associated with baseball's youngsters.
Buck Showalter has created one of baseball's most successful and cohesive clubhouses, one of the many causes for the Orioles' winning surge that began in 2012. However, often times there seems to be a lack of overall raw emotion. That good-time chip-on-your-shoulder. You know, that encompassing outpouring that comes with playing baseball.
You see it almost every day with Manny. Sometimes it comes on a backhand stab at third base, when he does that kind of "I'm better than you and I know it" look at the baseball just before firing a 100 MPH fastball over to Chris Davis. As has happened on thirty occasions this season, that long hold of the bat behind his head as he watches yet another glorious raindrop fall into the stands. My favorite, however, comes as he rounds the bases, hits home plate, and does that little wave to the third base side, just behind the dugout.
I love Jonathan Schoop. I have one Orioles shirsey, and of the seven days of the week, my Schoop No. 6 t-shirt makes an appearance no less than three times a week (it also makes me look slimmer than I am, so it's a natural choice). My man crush for Johnny is based more so on his growing unique skills at a position he doesn't necessarily fit, but plays excellently anyway. Johnny is a bit more laid back however, with a personality that doesn't really come at you. He seems like the nicest human being there ever was, but there isn't quite an edge to his game (not that there's a problem with it).
Other than his recent bat slam (a moment I'll never forget), I have a hard time remembering an instance when Chris Davis kind of overwhelmed us with his persona. Though Davis is more of a behind-the-scenes guy that seems to be the ultimate teammate and all-around funny guy, his emotions don't leak onto the field.
Adam Jones is a smooth swag criminal that has a reputation as being what he is. Along with Machado, Jonesy probably falls second in the mojo rankings, but again, there just isn't the consistent display of the new baseball style when compared to Machado. Don't get me wrong though. It's definitely there.
Matt Wieters seems dull, Steve Pearce is Steve Pearce and of the pitchers, they tend to be more stable than lively. Machado is as unique a person as he is a baseball player, and it's facet of his game that can continue to help him succeed.
Last night, after being thrown at the head not once, but twice, Jonathan Papelbon essentially gift-wrapped an invitation to the mound for a good ole fashion baseball throw down. Machado did not oblige, but he did let Papelbon know how he felt about the at-bat, and as much as we (maybe just I) would have liked to see Papelbon eat his just desserts, Machado showed restraint. Pitchers don't want to plunk has-beens or just another dude. More often than not, it's those that make their mark that are the targets of baseball justice.
Machado did nothing wrong by punishing Max Scherzer's 2-2 mistake. The Orioles are still somewhat alive in a tight playoff race, and guess what? The O's and Nationals don't seem to be too fond of each other. It's big to hit a home run off of Scherzer, the $210M man, but the moment is heightened when you hit a no-doubt-about-it bomb at 114 MPH to give your team a one-run lead.
Showalter picks his shots when to express himself, and in due time, I'd bet Manny learns the same. But he should never, ever apologize for blending the man he is with the baseball player he is evolving into.
I'm only 23, so maybe I'm in the minority when I ask for the swag police to take the night off, but Manny is a figure much different than what Orioles fans have become accustomed to. So don't expect his beacon of vibes to slowly dissolve any time soon.