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Manny Machado rips MLB Network talking heads over double standards

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Manny Machado has had his fair share of controversies. There was the stuff about his lack of hustle last fall. He’s thrown bats and ran into and over guys and has argued with umpires and all of that stuff. Is he well-liked? Not really. Is he a dirty player? Some say so. But even if you don’t say so, he’s been involved in some dirty plays and he’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. We chronicled much of that last fall.

But he’s certainly not the only guy who has done that sort of thing before. Others have and, I think it’s fair to say, others have not caught as much flak for it as he has. There are reasons for that too, of course. Part of it is that a couple of Machado’s transgressions came in very high-profile situations like last year’s playoffs. Part of it is that he’s a big star who makes a lot of money and guys like that tend to get more attention and heat than others. Part of it is that a lot people simply don’t like Machado for whatever reason.

Machado talked at length about that last night when he took to Instagram to mock MLB Network analysts Eric Byrnes and Dan Plesac, who were going on about the Jake Marisnick plunking and his barreling into Jonathan Lucroy that led to it. Byrnes and Plesac were defending Marisnick. Machado noted that he would never have gotten that kind of defense had it been him doing the barreling instead of Marisnick.

Watch (warning: NSFW language):

 

I don’t think he’s wrong about that. Again, some of it would be justified in that Machado does have a reputation and when you have a reputation you don’t get as much benefit of the doubt. But it’s also the case that Machado was not getting much benefit of the doubt — including from these guys in particular — well before that reputation was established.

Over at the Big Lead, they found examples of Byrnes going after Machado way back in 2014. Machado’s transgressions have, from the beginning, been cast as a those of a dirty, hotheaded player who lacks class. Other players who have done exactly what Machado has done often get excused for showing “passion” and “competitiveness” or for “playing hard” instead of “playing dirty” even when there isn’t all that much actual difference between the acts in question.

Machado says it’s attributable, at least in part, to him being Latino. I think people can reasonably disagree on the question of whether Machado, personally, has been unfairly judged. But I think it’s pretty indisputable that, generally, Latino players get way, way, way less benefit of the doubt for “hard play” vs. “dirty play” and for being “hotheaded” as opposed to being “competitors” than non-Latinos get. Those stereotypes are well-established. Academic research has been conducted on that stuff, confirming such inherent bias on the part of white commentators. Some of Machado’s peers in the game have said the same thing, both in general, and about Machado’s treatment personally.

Which is to say, whether or not Machado has earned the treatment he gets, he has a point here.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.