WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nobody’s getting too maudlin over a grown man having to relocate because he makes too much money for his current employer, bound for more money.
Those are the occasions for which brandy snifters, cigars and car services were made, generally.
Manny Machado priced himself out of the Baltimore Orioles by being a good enough ballplayer over the required number of summers, and by being an Oriole when it all went bad. The Orioles, in turn, spent their future on a guy who’d one day hit .158 over better than half-a-season, the sorts of decisions that are hell on the bottom line.
As it happened, Machado was a decent bet to spend his final hours as an Oriole standing with dozens of other men, none of whom would share his uniform.
Instead, he’d hug an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, play catch pregame with an infielder for the Cleveland Indians, hit in front of an outfielder for the New York Yankees, wave to a crowd that sort of knows him, that won’t miss him, as he was from the team down the road.
By game time Tuesday night, Machado appeared (but was not confirmed to be) headed to the Dodgers, the conclusion everyone arrived at nearly three months ago, when All-Star shortstop Corey Seager damaged his elbow. If negotiations continue on their course – no guarantee, because the Orioles in these matters are notoriously Oriole-ish – he’ll have returned to Baltimore, boxed the stuff of seven seasons, said his goodbyes and reported to his new club by, perhaps, Friday in Milwaukee.
It was time for the Orioles to get on with the business of intentional down years, only slightly more palatable than unintentional down years, but this way they can sell it as a plan, a process, a direction, which sells more tickets than plain bad baseball. And saves more jobs, assuming any are left by then. And the Dodgers, who those three months ago rolled their eyes at the kind of overreaction required to sub in Machado for Seager, instead found themselves bidding with the likes of the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers for the All-Star shortstop, into the breeze of multiple reports they’d already struck a deal, which they insisted were premature.
Those conversations seemed to be going at least reasonably well by late Tuesday night, when Machado had covered his innings at shortstop, popped out twice, boxed his swag and said his goodbyes. The next time he attends one of these he will be part of someone else’s franchise, someone else’s history, someone else’s plan.
Maybe he knew he was gone. And to where. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe, because of all the Orioles-ness here, there truly was nothing to know, and the Dodgers and Phillies and Brewers and anyone frisky enough to also participate were still crawling all over each other.
“Nothing, nothing,” he’d said before the game. “I haven’t heard anything. … For now I’m just trying to worry about today.”
The Orioles open the second half in Toronto. He may or may not be there. But, given the Orioles pulled him from the middle of a game Sunday so as not to have an injury foul a potential trade, it would seem odd to go running him out there for more baseball, more risk.
“I don’t expect anything, to be honest,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. If not, I’ll be there.”
Before the bottom of the second inning, Machado and four temporary teammates – Luis Severino, Jose Ramirez, Jose Altuve and Jose Abreu – selfied on the pitcher’s mound. Severino held the camera phone. Then, when Matt Kemp, the Dodgers outfielder, arrived at second base shortly thereafter, Machado reached into his own pocket and came out with his own phone. He mugged with Kemp. Then he selfied with Nick Markakis.
By the seventh inning, Machado was in street clothes, though not just anyone’s street. He wore a powder blue, double-breasted suit, no shirt, slacks cut a couple inches over his ankles, the whitest sneakers you’ve ever seen and sunglasses at night. Around his neck he’d slid a gold chain thick as your forefinger.
“Very Hollywood,” Matt Kemp had observed with a twinkle in his eye.
Machado gathered with a group of at least a dozen friends and family, all of them in No. 13 jerseys, Machado across the back, including his brother-in-law, Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso. Many of them dutifully checked their phones, held them up for others to see. An Orioles official hugged Machado’s wife, on a scale of hugs somewhere between good-to-see-you and have-a-wonderful-life.
“He’s actually one of my favorite players to watch,” Kemp said. “He’s a great player. If that’s something that happens … it’s definitely going to help us win more games.”
But, then, you knew that. The rest will have to wait.
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