Major League Baseball is a big-time business, but that doesn't mean there can't be some strong relationships built along the way. Together, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop have formed a dynamic duo that may be stronger than any other in the majors, and it doesn't hurt that they are both really good at what they do.
One has to imagine it is difficult to grow close to anyone in professional sports. It is a short-sighted operation where what you did last year holds little weight if you are scuffling now. On Monday, you could be making the game-winning play only to find yourself released, traded or demoted by the end of the week. So, when a bond forms so tightly between two players, it should be appreciated. Let's do that.
From another angle
Published in Press Box yesterday, former Sun reporter turned Baltimore Baseball writer Dan Connolly put together a fun piece about the journey the two have gone on together that took them from wiry teenagers in the O's farm system to the big-time sluggers they are with the Birds today.
It has some things you have heard before: they get at each other about who has the stronger arm (I'm pretty sure it's Machado, but what do I know). And it mixes in some added facts about the conversations they had while taking grounders together in the minors and how they like to frequent steak restaurants around town. Machado even cooks for Schoop from time to time. There are added quotes from J.J. Hardy and Buck Showalter as well. It's worth your time to check out.
MASN put together a video last year covering some of the same ground:
Throwing it back
The first season the two really played together was in 2011 with the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds and later the high-A Frederick Keys that same season. That year, they played on opposing sides in the All-Star Futures Game in Arizona with Machado, from Miami, playing on the United States team and Schoop, a native of Curacao, representing the rest of the World. Look at how skinny there were!!
With the Keys, they won both the Northern division title and eventually the Carolina League championship. The following offseason, they were both named to a list of the top 100 prospects in baseball with Machado coming in at number 11 overall and Schoop down at number 82, according to Baseball America.
They made such an impact with the Keys that the club gave a sweet handshake bobble head of the pair to season ticket holders this season. You can admit it, you're now jealous of all current Frederick season ticket holders.
The 2012 season saw them separate. Both began the year with the Double-A Bowie Baysox, but Machado was eventually promoted to the bigs in August while Schoop continued working away down in the minors before making his debut with the O's in September of 2013.
Major League memories
It has been in Baltimore where the friendship has been put onto center stage. When either one of them hits a home run, an elaborate handshake follows. You know they take a LONG time practicing that in the clubhouse. The club even gave out a t-shirt about it during the 2015 campaign.
You've seen Manny Machado & Jonathan Schoop's celebration handshake... pic.twitter.com/1huHMqjt6f— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 23, 2015
But a lot of teammates slap hands in cool ways. These guys also fight and wrestle like little kids. Take, for example, their "celebration" after beating the Twins last week:
And, of course, it was Machado who had to help Adam Jones pie Schoop last April following his first career grand slam.
These guys are fun and both are playing ridiculously well right now. Schoop is hitting .266/.293/.492. Of major league second baseman, the O's man is in the top five in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage, but there is still room to grow as he is fourth among second basemen in strikeouts and has walked just five times in 128 at-bats. At 24 years old, there is no reason to think he won't continue to improve.
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Machado is just ridiculous. He is arguably the best third baseman, both offensively and defensively, in the game. He may soon be thought of as one of the two or three best players in the world. Period. The Miami native is in the top 10 of baseball in batting average (.333), home runs (11), hits (50), doubles (15), slugging percentage (.653) and OPS (1.040). I mean, COME ON!
Can you split up Batman and Robin?
With the rate at which they are producing, the writing is on the wall. They will need to get PAID eventually, likely with deals that include at lot of zeros at the end. Machado's eligible for free agency in 2019 with Schoop following him a season later. It will be tough to manage. Manny may end up with something close to the richest deal in baseball history and Jonathan is a power hitter in a position that historically lacks players with that ability. What are you to do?
Those are decisions that Dan Duquette is paid to make, with a lot of help from the Angelos family. As viewers, it's easier let them worry about that and just sit back and enjoy these two players having fun on the diamond.
(And before you mention it in the comments, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus have a sweet bromance too, but the Machado/Schoop combination is just a bit sweeter)
*stats taken prior to the start of games on Monday, May 16, 2016