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Orioles Fans Seeing New Side Of Manny Machado

June 16, 2014

Just about everything was picture perfect during the career of Orioles third baseman Manny Machado until Sept. 23, 2013, when he fell while running the bases during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays and tore a ligament in his left knee. When the Orioles called up Machado from Double-A Bowie in August 2012, the term "great player" got thrown around early and often.

By the time 2013 was about a month old, Machado's greatness became more of an assumed notion. His play during the first two months of last season quickly made him a candidate for the brightest young star in the game, along with the Angels' Mike Trout and the Nationals' Bryce Harper. All three had their supporters, and Baltimoreans were content with the one wearing their hometown uniform.

On an almost nightly basis, Machado's defensive plays were making highlight reels across the country. He made his first All-Star appearance in 2013 at Citi Field and followed it up with his first Gold Glove award.

One of the things that made him so great to root for was his demeanor on the field. Throughout my years watching the game, I have rarely seen someone with Machado's kind of cool. Nothing ruffled this Bird's feathers.

But that's what people saw in 2012 and 2013. The Machado we are seeing on a daily basis now seems to bear little resemblance to that guy.

What is becoming almost routine with the 2014 Machado is his total lack of cool. Facing a career-threatening injury is a scary thing. We know that. That is especially true in this day and age, when a 15- to 18-year playing career could be worth as much as $250 million to $300 million.

Orioles 2014: Manny Machado (brushback)
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

Machado's skills are still there. What is missing is the innate way he played the game -- when he knew how all his working parts would respond to anything. That aura of invincibility was taken from him, and now what we have left is a jittery, unsure-of-himself player. His batting average, run production, defense and baserunning all illustrate what I am talking about.

That's all normal stuff. What is disillusioning is how he is responding to his fears. Twice during a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics June 6-8, Machado instigated bench-clearing near brawls on the field. He placed blame on the umpires and A's third baseman Josh Donaldson. 

Being based in Baltimore, I can see I am not alone in my convictions about Machado. Lots of Orioles fans are seeing and saying the same things about him, and they don't like it.

But get a load of this post on Facebook from SiriusXM radio's Casey Stern from the MLB Channel: "Good people do bad things, and smart people do stupid things. ... But it'll take a long time for people to get over the actions of Manny Machado [June 6-8]. Pretty embarrassing stuff, and when he realizes it, nobody will feel it more than him."

Apparently someone got to Machado between the night of June 8 and the afternoon of June 9. It could have been a player or players that spoke to him. Machado made his mea culpa June 9, first to only MASN before the game, and then to the media in general after the game.

Although it's a start, my basic point is, as long as Machado plays the way he's played to date this year, I am not so sure one apology is going to put all the pieces back together again.

They say character is revealed during the bad times. Orioles fans should hope Machado's recent actions are just a blip in the road and that he's still worth rooting for.

***

While we are looking at the different sides of someone's personality, let me interject my two cents about Colts owner Jim Irsay. My dislike for his father, Robert, was so deep that I secretly rejoiced when he left Baltimore, along with his Colts team. 

I know the move came at a large cost to fans in Maryland, but everything that surrounded the man was so tainted by his mental illness, which was exacerbated by his alcoholism, that things simply wouldn't have gotten any better. So I'll take 13 years sans an Irsay-owned football team for the past 18 years of the Ravens with Art Modell and Steve Bisciotti as owners and Ozzie Newsome as general manager.

But as much as I disliked Robert Irsay, I had wanted to judge his son Jim on his own merits, or lack thereof. And for a good chunk of his time in the limelight, Jim Irsay has comported himself with professionalism.

But Jim Irsay's arrest in Carmel, Ind., March 16 on two misdemeanor charges of driving impaired has changed a lot of perceptions about him. He has also become the subject of a lot more media scrutiny and leaguewide scrutiny from the NFL.

It didn't take an awful lot of added eyeballs to find out that Jim Irsay acknowledged entering rehab in 2002 for a prescription drug addiction after his name surfaced in a police investigation of a doctor overprescribing powerful painkillers. And during a 2010 interview with USA Today, Jim Irsay openly detailed his history of recreational drug use -- including mushrooms and cocaine.

According to written reports, he pronounced himself sober Aug. 6, 2002. But Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz wrote after Jim Irsay's most recent arrest that those around the Colts had known he was struggling with his sobriety.

NFL security will also look with heightened sensitivity to Jim Irsay's connection with a Colts fan from Indiana named Kimberly Wundrum, who also had a history of drug use. She reportedly befriended Jim Irsay and lived in multiple residences owned by the Colts or by the Blue Trust, a company administered by Colts executives. In March, Wundrum was found dead of a suspected drug overdose in a townhouse the Blue Trust owned.

The point of this is not to merely dredge up bad news about the Colts' current owner. Rather, it's to point out that in light of how NBA commissioner Adam Silver decisively acted with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after he was recorded making racist remarks, the fans, media and NFL players are going to watch closely how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will handle a punishment for Jim Irsay.

Don't be too surprised if Jim Irsay is handed a yearlong suspension to keep him from being actively involved with his beloved Colts, along with a hefty fine.

Issue 198: June 2014