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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 17: Manny Machado traded before he was traded

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

It was clear from very early on that the Baltimore Orioles were going to trade Manny Machado during the course of the 2018 season. He was in his free agency walk year and, once they dropped five of their first six games, any pretense of a decent Orioles year meant that their big star was going to be on the block.

And, as is always the case when a big star is on the block, there were rumors all late spring and early summer about which teams were interested, who was talking to the Orioles and all of the usual stuff that comes in the runup to the trade deadline. By the time the All-Star Game rolled around in mid-July it was widely assumed that the number of days Machado had left in orange and black could be counted on one hand. And, as a matter of fact, news of his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers broke on July 18, the day after the Midsummer Classic.

Except, as it turns out, he had already, more or less, had been traded. A deal was in place between the O’s and Dodgers several days earlier. Even before the All-Star Game.

We learned after the trade that the Orioles pulled him out of their final game before the All-Star break in the fourth inning because the deal was struck and the Dodgers didn’t want their new shortstop’s health risked in an actual game. The Orioles lied to reporters about it afterward, telling them that it was because the field was wet. As Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported later, however, the O’s told Machado what the real deal was:

“That’s when they had told me I had been traded,’’ Machado said. “They said they pretty much had a deal done. They just wanted to wait until after the break to get all of the medical stuff done.

It’s hard to escape the inference that part of the delay in announcing it was also to protect the Orioles from looking kinda pathetic during the All-Star break, as Machado was their only All-Star representative and if the trade was announced they’d have no one there.

All of which is rather silly, of course, but maybe the silliest part of it was what reporters were saying in between the time the deal was actually struck on Sunday and when it was announced on Wednesday. During that time there was all of the usual rumor-mongering, complete with tweets about this or that team “being in the race” or “taking the lead” or three or four teams in the “debry” or “sweepstakes” as it entered “the home stretch.” As it turns out, it was like a bunch of track announcers calling a race that wasn’t even being run. Were they being fed bogus rumors or are all trade rumors a lot of vague bunk about which we never find out? No matter which of those it is, it says a lot about how the trade rumor business works.

Ultimately, the manner in which Machado was traded to the Dodgers didn’t matter anywhere near as much as the fact that he was traded. Machado didn’t have anywhere near as good a second half in Los Angeles as he did a first half in Baltimore, but he filled a void for the Dodgers and was part of their September surge which helped them win the National League West and the NL pennant once again.

Now he’s a free agent and the rumors about him swirl anew. Which ones should we believe? Heck, should we believe any of ’em?

Phillies-Mets could get contentious tonight

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As the Mets were wrapping up a 9-0 shellacking of the Phillies on Tuesday night, reliever Jacob Rhame threw a pitch up and in to first baseman Rhys Hoskins with two outs in the ninth inning. The pitch sailed behind Hoskins’ back. The slugger wasn’t happy about the scare, understandably. Players began to trickle out of their respective dugouts, but a fracas was avoided.

Hoskins was skeptical that Rhame simply missed his spot. Per MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan, Hoskins said, “He didn’t miss up and in the rest of the inning, so I’ll let you decide. I would assume teams are pitching me in because that’s where they think they can get me out, and that’s fine. That’s part of the game. Again, I think most guys are capable of pitching inside and not missing that bad.”

Teammate Bryce Harper said, “I don’t get it. I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday. But, I mean, if it’s baseball and you’re going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the [butt]. Not in the head. You throw 98, it’s scary now. You could kill somebody. Lose your eyesight. That’s bigger than the game.”

Indeed, two Mets were hit by pitches on Monday night. José Álvarez hit Jeff McNeil in the seventh inning, which advanced a base runner. In the very next at-bat, Juan Nicasio hit Pete Alonso with a first-pitch fastball. It was obvious neither was intentional as the Phillies were only down two runs and hitting both batters advanced base runners and led to runs scoring. It is less obvious that Rhame’s pitch to Hoskins was unintentional, but he showed empathy in his post-game comments. Rhame said, “When you accidentally sail one, it’s probably pretty scary. I’d get [angry], too.”

Will Wednesday night’s series finale be contentious? Despite being “fairly upset,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said, “We do not retaliate, and we do not throw at anybody intentionally,” Jake Seiner of the Associated Press reports.

Mets manager Mickey Calloway didn’t give as straight an answer. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Calloway said, “I think at this point, you just go out there and beat people, and win. … For now, I don’t feel like anything has been intentional at us that has warranted anything from our side.” If that changes, however, Calloway said, “They’re going to have each other’s backs.”

Hopefully, neither side decides to take justice into their own hands. But, welcome to the NL East in 2019. The Mets lead the Phillies by one game, and the Braves and Nationals by 1.5 games. It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out division fight all year long.