A lot has been made this off season about whether or not Manny Machado would be ready for Opening Day following his knee injury (and surgery). That’s something that’s still apparently up in the air, and while the Baltimore Orioles appear somewhat hopeful of that possibility they’re also making contingency plans. This is not to say that his absence in the lineup would be anything prolonged if he’s not ready to go, and as we found out this week he’s ahead of schedule medically. At the very latest, I would bet that he’d be back guarding the hot corner in Baltimore by the end of April or beginning of May if not before.
But regardless of when Machado comes back, I think that the bigger question is whether or not he’ll be the same player. I’m certainly not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV! However I’m not sure that even a medical doctor could have a grasp on what I’m talking about. At the time of Machado’s injury some folks pointed to the fact that perhaps he hurt himself due in part to the fact that he was hustling so hard down the line (a big point of emphasis on all Buck Showalter-coached teams). So…might Machado be more tentative in the future? Going back to another medical point, is it possible that he might not have quite the same range that he had before at third?
Doctors have said that he should regain all of his motion, strength, etc. in terms of being a third
baseman. So hopefully the question about his range is answered for Orioles fans. However the mental part is something that’s much less intangible. To draw a bit of a parallel, one would be hard-pressed to argue that Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III was the same mentally in 2013 as he was prior to being injured. Some of that might be the offensive scheme that the Redskins’ coaching staff had going into the season (designed to protect Griffin more), however the fact is that he didn’t seem to have quite the eye of the tiger as he did in 2012.
RGIII’s injury was different (and worse at that) than Machado’s however the two situations are similar in that they’re very young athletes who are projected to be superstars. Again, it’s different in that Machado isn’t facing massive lineman that are trying to eat him for lunch every play, but I suppose it’s natural for a person to keep that injury in the back of his mind after the fact in a sense. However it’s also natural for athletes to have a killer mindset and want to be back out on the field.
Ultimately I don’t think we’re going to see too much disconnect from the Machado we saw previously once he returns. He might be a bit tentative the first time he goes deep into the hole to plant his feet and throw to first, however nobody would really be able to blame him for that. One advantage that baseball players also have over football guys is that in baseball guys can go on minor league rehab starts prior to actually seeing live action in games. RGIII was also held out of the Redskins’ preseason games, and there’s no indication that Machado won’t be participating in spring training. In fact, as I said above I predict that he’ll end up in extended spring training. Time will tell one way or the other, however it’s something to watch.