Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Kick Too Far? Manny Machado's History of Misconduct

According to our Twitter poll, Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado should have been ejected for kicking at Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar during Game 4 of the NLCS, producing a bench-clearing incident (71%-29%, 220 votes). Naturally, Machado, who was not ejected, scored the winning run for Los Angeles in the Murphy's Law principle of umpiring that, naturally, that's the player who ends up being the difference maker in an extra inning ballgame.

Manny Machado kicked at Jesus Aguilar's leg.
Let's recap what happened with Machado and Aguilar Tuesday night, look at some postgame reaction from Milwaukee's clubhouse, talk potential retaliation, and discuss Manny's history of MLB misconduct.

The Play: With one out and none on in the top of the 10th inning of Tuesday's Brewers-Dodgers game, Machado hit a ground ball to Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia, who threw to first baseman Aguilar prior to Machado's arrival for the second out of the inning. Following the out, as Machado ran through the base, his left foot made contact with Aguilar's right ankle, resulting in a bench-clearing incident during which no further penalties were assessed.

Quick Analysis: After recording the out, Aguilar keeps his foot on and overhanging the field-facing side of first base. Machado, who previously was criticized for not running out batted balls, runs through the base and kicks at Aguilar on his way by. Replays indicate that as he crosses first base, Machado's left leg is positioned over the infield dirt rather than the base itself. Meanwhile, his right foot steps atop the base several inches from the foul-facing edge of the bag. After running through the base, Machado veers into fair territory and the benches clear. This suggests intent to me, since the slew-foot contact was avoidable due to unimpeded access to the foul side of first base following an already-decided play, but your mileage may vary.

SIDEBAR: I used the term "slew-foot contact" for an illustrative reason. In hockey, for instance, slew footing is such a severe infraction that it is an automatic match penalty—auto-ejection plus suspension and referral to the Department of Player Safety for further review and potential supplemental discipline. That's how severe slew-footing is on the ice. On land, it may be less severe, but it should be no less unsporting.

Consequence: Machado scored the winning run for LA in the 13th. Naturally, he wouldn't have been able to do so had he been ejected in the 10th (which, naturally, isn't to say that LA wouldn't have won).

Machado's path through first base.
Post-Game: Perhaps fitting for an MVP candidate, Milwaukee's Christian Yelich called Machado out after the game as a "dirty player" while Machado dismissed the incident as "trying to get over him...If that's dirty, that's dirty, I don't know, call it what you want."

Retaliation: Postseason retaliation is rare due to the risk of suspension and the heightened importance of every game. Even if a free baserunner proves inconsequential due to a lopsided score, the risk of suspension during the playoff period makes retaliation unappealing. Many teams instead opt to carry over the retaliation to the next season (see Noah Syndergaard's ejection for throwing at Dodgers batter Chase Utley). Complicating matters here is that Machado will likely not be a Dodger next year. Will the Brewers retaliate against the player, the team, or no one at all?
Related PostRevisiting the Situation - Tom Hallion & Terry Collins (6/13/18).

Machado's illegal slide into second base.
Machado's History - 2018 NLCS: You don't have to go that far back to find another incident of Machado's misconduct (not including Machado yelling at HP Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt earlier in Game 4). On Monday during Game 3, Machado slid twice to break up a double play, the second of which prompted a Brewers challenge resulting in an overturned call. Both times, the Brewers complained about Machado purportedly raising his right arm to grab at a Milwaukee middle infielder; the second, when Manager Craig Counsell successfully challenged 2B Umpire Jim Wolf's "no violation" call, Milwaukee also believed that Machado went out of his way to initiate physical contact with his lower body, making no attempt to reach or remain on second base. Wolf was the first base umpire for the Aguilar cleating on Tuesday night.

Brawl after Machado threw his bat at a fielder.
Machado's History - League-Wide: Manny Machado has been ejected five times over the course of his Major League career, including two times for fighting. In 2014, Machado threw his bat into fair territory with such force that it rolled all the way to 3B Umpire Angel Hernandez, who stepped in front of the bat to stop it from rolling further into left field. Machado had purportedly been upset at an inside pitch earlier during the at-bat.

Machado charges the mound in Baltimore.
In 2016, Machado charged the mound during a game against Kansas City after he was hit by a Yordano Ventura fastball; Ventura was ejected from the game for throwing at Machado and Machado was ejected for fighting.

Machado also was cited for a hard slide through second base against Boston in 2017 when he spiked Red Sox middle infielder Dustin Pedroia in his left calf, which was positioned past second base (the fielder's protected area in NCAA ball) and also threw his helmet at A's third baseman Josh Donaldson after Donaldson tagged him out between second and third base.
Related LinkClose Call Sports history for Manny Machado.

Dustin Pedroia is injured by Machado's slide.
The Pedroia play, for what it's worth, brought to light MLB's interpretation that because Pedroia didn't throw to first base, the play was not subject to interference. After a considerable delay during which Manager John Farrell argued the call with Crew Chief Wendelstedt, ultimately resulting in a trip to the replay station (likely to confirm to the umpires that the play was not subject to an interference ruling due to the umpire's determination that the downed Pedroia didn't attempt to throw to first base) and Pedroia left the game due to injury as a result of Machado's slide, 3B Umpire Alan Porter ejected Red Sox 3B Coach Brian Butterfield for continuing to argue the events of this play.
Related PostMLB Ejection 010 - Alan Porter (3; Brian Butterfield) (4/21/17).
Related PostTmac's Teachable - Slide Review and Replay, Too (9/27/18).

Conclusion: The Official Baseball Rules leave umpires great leeway to eject players for "unsportsmanlike conduct." MLB, meanwhile, instructs umpires to be more lenient during the postseason in order to ensure that important players stay in the game and championship outcomes are not affected by the loss of a superstar. The only consideration is whether such laxness gives credence to Ashley Jade's summation from Blame it on the Pain, "Because sometimes in life, sweetheart. The bad guys win."

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Machado kicks at Aguilar and other notable Manny incidents (BrewPack/YT)


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