Along with many Baltimore Orioles fans, I was surprised to see the season open with Manny Machadobatting in the second spot in the order. Though there is no doubt that this 20-year-old is going to end up being a great baseball player for a lot of years, this seemed to me like a very premature promotion.
But premature promotions seem to be the specialty for Machado. Signed out of Brito Miami Private School (Florida) a month after turning age 18, Machado was the #3 pick overall in 2010 amateur draft. And Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette surprised everyone last year (including Machado) when Manny was called up on August 9th to take over third base for the Birds.
Having been targeted all along as a shortstop, the attitude of the Orioles in putting him at third base seemed to be, “You’ve got the talent, we’re throwing you out there, so sink or swim.” He swam quite well – solidifying the defense for the final segment of the season, while handling himself more than adequately at the plate.
Though we do not know the mind of Buck Showalter, nor may he ever reveal why he has chosen to begin the season with Manny in the two hole, the attitude again seems to be, “You’ve got the talent, we’re throwing you out there, so sink or swim.” While sinking at first, Manny now seems to have found his stroke (double entendre, pun intended!)
Though I am glad to see J.J. Hardy dropped toward the bottom of the order, I certainly would not have envisioned Machado batting second. I would put Markakis in the regular leadoff spot, with Nate McLouth second against righties and Nolan Reimold against lefties. I’d then go with Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Matt Wieters hitting 3-4-5.
It appears that the genius of Showalter regularly reveals itself over time. I had said in a comment on another article in this blog (that questioned the second spot readiness of Machado) that though it is difficult to question Showalter’s moves, I frankly could not understand this one. I should probably have just shut up and watched it develop. Our skepticism seemed to be vindicated when Manny went but 3 for 18 in the first four games, but since then he has been 10 of 29 including the great 3-run homer that won the game in Boston on Wednesday night. And today he bunted over the leadoff double in the first inning to set up the initial run of the game. Through 11 games he is batting .277 with 2 doubles, 1 homer, and 5 RBIs.
This is a guy who is simply going to get better as he goes along. Yes, there will be times when he runs himself into the first 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play in the history of the game of baseball (and is that not cool that something could happen in this sport that has never happened before?). But make no mistake about it, Machado is on the way to being a dominant player in this game, and maybe sooner than later – especially if he gets thrown into these sink or swim situations!