Here are the facts: On June 6th, Josh Donaldson plays a hard ground ball hit by Adam Jones and instead of opting to throw for the force out at first base, Donaldson waits and tags Manny Machado heading to third base for the third and final out. Machado tries to evade it, but loses his balance and throws his helmet on the way to the ground (which can already be an ejectable offence under rule 9.01d), after which he starts yelling at Donaldson and both benches clear. Then, in the 6th inning, Wei-Yin Chen hits Donaldson on a pitch up and inside, after which Donaldson yells something at his dugout before taking first base.
Then on June 8th, Machado hits Derek Norris two times with his follow-through in separate innings, the second time knocked Norris out of the game. Then in the 8th with the A’s up ten runs, Fernando Abad throws a pitch down and in to Machado, the second time it happened that game, and brushes him off the plate. Machado swings at the second pitch, during which the bat flies from his hands and lands behind third base. Machado stares downing Abad and starts yelling, and then the benches clear again. Machado and Abad were then ejected.
First and foremost, I’d like to say Machado is very much in the wrong in this situation. What he did was very hot headed and very much inexcusable. I’d also like to point out the A’s are in the wrong as well, Donaldson taking the hit-by-pitch personal, Norris claiming Machado’s back swing was intentional, and Abad throwing at Machado’s knee are very child-like.
I call this an overreaction because no one actually looks past what happened and people are coming out of the woodworks and calling Machado the anti-christ (well, maybe not that far, but you get the point). I’m not trying to say Machado is innocent and the A’s are the bad guys, I just believe he is being tremendously over criticized and the A’s aren’t being criticized enough.
First off, Machado’s backswing/follow-through is one of the longest I’ve seen in baseball. Don’t believe me? Look.
From what else I’ve seen, it seems like the lower the pitch is, the farther the bat drops on the backend. Buck even said to the media today that, “I think Manny’s had six or seven of those this year. Obviously, they’re not intentional, It’s just the way he swings.” Norris then goes on to say that he thinks he saw Machado smirking after the second time, let’s look:
Okay, he is smiling, but wait a couple seconds longer.
It looks like Adam Jones was talking to him the whole time and Jones is one the biggest jokesters in the clubhouse. This looks like it explains itself, unless you want to start villianizing Jones as well. Then, Norris talks about how Machado didn’t say anything afterwards, like “sorry” or “are you ok?” To be a stick in the mud, he really doesn’t have to say anything. It doesn’t prove that it was intentional and Machado explained to Britt Ghiroli that “…his back swings was unintentional and he felt remorse but didn’t think Oakland —given the situation— would think he was sincere.”
Next, Donaldson tagging Machado at third in the first game. While I do believe Machado overreacted, Donaldson went out of his way to tag him. If you re-watch the video, Donaldson is playing fairly deep and with his arm, it would be easier just to throw to first, especially since the ball was hard hit. I believe Machado’s outburst comes from the sensitivity over his knee; Donaldson makes him make a move to avoid the tag and that it putting an unneeded risk on that knee. This is me just rationalizing as Machado has not said much on that specific instance. This one is completely up for debate and it does not favor Machado.
Now, Chen ‘throwing at’ Donaldson in the first game. General Manager Dan Duquette clarified this on The Norris and Davis Show on Monday. Donaldson hit a home run in the first inning lunging over the plate, look:
His third at-bat is when he was hit, his second at-bat was a fly out to Centerfield, and this is what Duquette said, “We threw inside on Donaldson because he reached out over the plate the first time up against Chen and put the ball in the left field bleachers. So we went inside to get him off the plate and after that we were able to get him out. We didn’t go inside to hit him.” So, while Donaldson’s third at-bat looks bad by itself, if you add his previous two at-bats it’s just Chen pitching inside as a strategy, not to send a message.
Finally, the meat of this whole debacle, Machado throwing the bat. In no way do I think Machado is innocent, it doesn’t matter if the A’s baited him or not, he took the bait. But the A’s did in fact bait him, Abad threw at his knee and that’s almost as bad as what Machado did. You would have to have been living under a rock to not know Machado is coming off major knee surgery. If you want to send a message to someone, you throw at their upper body; if you throw at the legs, you’re trying to hurt someone. Duquette summed up how I feel about this situation on The Derek and Norris Show, “not going to condone that action — I don’t think there’s a place for that.” He then added, “When someone’s trying to take your livelihood by throwing a baseball at you, not once but twice, I think that’s a natural reaction to protect yourself.” And the fact of the matter is that if the A’s don’t throw at Machado, this is a non-story. Don’t act upset when you can’t take someone’s retaliation, it doesn’t matter who started it, if you don’t think you can take it, don’t retaliate back.
The A’s are not innocent in this situation at all. It is sickening to see the A’s and baseball fans as a whole act like Machado was the only one in the wrong and the A’s have their hands sparkling clean. The national media is even gunning for Machado, ESPN’s Sweetspot ran an article titled ‘Machado must be suspended’ with no mention of the wrongdoing on A’s part or looking more into the situation somewhere near the level I did above. If Abad does not get a suspension and Machado does, the MLB should be ashamed of itself and I will be sure to show my discontent.
I’m going to repeat myself, I’m not trying to say Machado is innocent and the A’s are the bad guys, I just believe he is being tremendously over criticized and the A’s aren’t being criticized enough. But the few things I took away from this have enlightened me, and I hope they do the same with you. Most baseball players are giant crybabies and hive mentalities are frightening.