Previously, on The Life of Manny Machado:
But that was months ago! Today is now, and now, Manny Machado finds himself $300 million dollars richer after signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. No — wait. Sorry. The New York Yankees. Whoa... ho-ho. Whoops. Sorry again. Looks like the White Sox landed their big fish — nope. That’s not it. The San Diego Padres?
Baseball’s San Diego Padres have existed in Baseball’s Medium Place for so long that I don’t think fans outside of San Francisco and Los Angeles are even aware of the team’s existence.
I'll bite, who are the Padres— Whet Moser (@whet) February 19, 2019
And because of Baseball’s generally terrible ability to promote itself, not many fans outside of Baltimore, New York, Boston, and maybe Los Angeles really know just how fantastic Manny Machado is as a baseball player.
Yeah, as a person, he’s got some public image issues. He’s being criticized for his comments about hustle and for clipping Jesus Aguilar’s ankle while running to first base in the NLCS — ironically, the opposite of his “I’m not Johnny Hustle” comment! — and those data points rightfully place him on the Jerk Spectrum of Baseball.
Baseball is the Sport of Jerks, so that alone is no indictment. There is a fine line between being a jerk and being a criminal, and sometimes teams conflate the two, but in this case we’re talking about an elite player who doesn’t Play The Game The Right Way, which makes him loathed by the diehards and players alike.
In case you don’t know what that spectrum looks like, here’s a handy reminder:
So, as you can see, that green part of the spectrum is innocent enough. Mobbing a guy as he reaches home plate is fine, but punching him in the kidneys, chest, and (obviously) cup is a jerky thing to do, even if it looks fun to watch from outside the scrum. And as for the post-game interview pranking — shaving cream in the eyes stings! The A’s as a team are exactly this level of innocent jerkanery.
And then you move on to your Jake Arrietas and Joey Vottos, players who express confidence in their abilities befitting someone at the top of their profession on the entire planet. Joey Votto is also “mean” to children, but for fun. This is the more classic version of a jerk. There’s a Burt Reynoldsesque confidence to everything they do, and everything they do is all for them. It’s the last phase of the spectrum that’s not especially problematic.
Because after those guys comes your Madison Bumgarner, your Yasiel Puig, your Trevor Bauer, and your Mat Latos-types. Fine if they’re on your team, but if not — oof, the act does not travel. This kind of jerkinachtion also tends to lead to an altercation between jerk and jerkee — not always physical, but always with the potential to become physical. Not as true for Bauer, but his persona Online is just... it’s insufferable... and someone who’s always itching for a digital fight.
After that, we’re in Chase Utley Country, which is where Manny Machado finally staked his claim last season — coincidentally, after joining the Dodgers! Fans of Marco Scutaro put Matt Holliday here. In fact, most current or former Cardinals go here.
The last phase of baseball jerkdom is a combination of the previous two, and is so alarming that it presents a physical danger both to the jerk and jerkees, and there’s enough emotional instability on display that — “Wow! What a jerk!” barely describes the situation.
Being a fairly extreme Baseball Jerk won’t hold back a player like Machado, because it’s very hard to be good at baseball, and for those precious few who are better than even the best, you get a lot of rope. He’s a doubles-hitting 26-year old shortstop slash third baseman who’s pretty damn good at both positions and has averaged 5.4 fWAR over the past four seasons (30.2 total for his career).
That $30 million average annual value might sound absurd (even though there are already many players making that and more in terms of AAV), but Machado looks to be one of the few players who would be worth such a high price tag. If you like ZiPS (and we do around here), then here’s the breakdown over the course of the next decade:
Manny Machado and the Padres: if we just appointed ZiPS the Dictator of Baseball, we could have saved three months of Ouroboros-shaped drama. pic.twitter.com/6BF7Bk5QaO— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) February 19, 2019
This suggests that the Padres have made a sound investment. Even if I’m not totally sold on FanGraphs’ cost per win calculation, it provides a solid outline of what’s in store. And by that, I mean what’s in store for the Giants, which is the only thing that matters in this equation.
He faced the Giants 6 times last year (after the Dodgers traded for him following the season-ending injury to Cory Seager) and hit .391 / .481 / .522 in 27 plate appearances. He’s played 12 games against the Giants for his career, 9 at Oracle, and posted an .817 OPS in 56 plate appearances.
Those are great numbers, even if he hasn’t hit a home run against the Giants yet. He’ll have plenty of time to notch that first one, though, as the Mercury News’ Kerry Crowley reminds us:
The #SFGiants open up the season against the Padres in San Diego. They'll get Manny Machado on Opening Day, and then 189 more times over the next 10 years.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) February 19, 2019
Nobody looks forward to Giants-Padres games except for maybe Giants fans in San Diego. They’ll now have a little more difficult time watching the Giants win or lose 2-1 in 12 innings, as Manny Machado will more than capably fill the Paul Goldschmidt-sized hole in the Giants’ Rogues Gallery. He might even assume the role of Yasiel Puig,
The Padres have always been a nuisance, but now they’re a problem. They just added the top free agent on the market to a young core that’s already projected to be better than the Giants for the next 3-4 years (on paper). The deal was just cash (no draft picks lost) and didn’t hamper “payroll flexibility” or block any prospects. This was an all upside move.
Even though the Padres were already projected to be better on paper than the Giants for the next 3-4 years, they’ve added a generational talent who, in the strictest sense, is amazing to watch play baseball. So, there’s that bit of upside for Giants fans, too. Sure, he’ll have the peskiness of David Eckstein, but he’ll also be the most talented Padre to play against the Giants since peak Tony Gwynn.
The only possible downside in all this is that the average quality of haircut on the Padres’ roster just went down.
Way, way down.