Manny Machado Gets Dirty

Last night, Manny Machado scored the decisive run in an extra-inning walkoff victory to tie the NLCS at two games a piece and put the Dodgers within two wins of the World Series. When discussing Machado and last night’s game, we’d ideally be focusing on his key hit, his smart and aggressive take of second base on a wild pitch, and his impressive dash from second to home on a single to right field that barely beat a strong throw from Christian Yelich.

We aren’t talking about that, though. We’re talking instead about a play in the 10th inning of last night’s game on which Manny Machado made contact with Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar:

In real time, it looked really awkward, but not necessarily malicious. After the game, the Brewers said the play was dirty or insinuated as such by questioning Machado’s general attitude about playing hard. From the story:

“It’s a dirty play by a dirty player,” Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich said.

“It looked like it,” Aguilar said. “I’ve known Manny for many years and I don’t know why he would act like that.”

Brewers manager Craig Counsell threw shade at Machado when asked if the play went beyond the grounds of hard play.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess they got tangled up at first base. I don’t think he’s playing all that hard.”

Machado didn’t really back down either:

“If that’s dirty, that’s dirty,” Machado said. “I don’t know, call it what you want. I play baseball. I try to go out there and win for my team. If that’s their comments, that’s their comments. I can’t do nothing about that.”

Let’s start by giving Machado the benefit of the doubt and assume, for sake of argument, that it was just a weird play. In that spirit, let’s take a few closer looks at it to see what kind of determinations we might be able to make. Here’s another angle from directly behind Machado.

From this perspective, the contact still looks more awkward than malicious, even if it does appear a little more violent than the first one. For comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at an extremely similar play from earlier in the game.

Aguilar’s heel isn’t exposed in quite the same way, but his foot is definitely still on the bag when Machado crosses it — and Machado manages not to swipe the Brewers’ first baseman. Machado is still running inside the first-base line, but he doesn’t make any contact. Here’s a screenshot from both plays just before Machado touches the bag.

Following the moment depicted on the right, Machado harmlessly moved his left foot over Aguilar’s right. Following the one on the left, however, Machado eventually hit Aguilar’s foot with his own.

So what was different about the 10th-inning grounder? Let’s take a look at the play from the outfield.

This makes the play look a lot worse. Right before Machado reaches the bag, he glances down. This is what the play looked like right as Machado directed his gaze to the ground.

If this were Machado’s first downward glance, we might actually lean away from the conclusion that the play was dirty. Some sort of collision looks inevitable. Machado’s right foot is about to touch the bag and his left foot is off the ground behind him — nor does it appear as though there is a lot room for his left foot to go. To see what happens next, let’s take a different view of the play from the visitor’s dugout.

Here’s where things begin to look more suspicious. In the screenshot, we see Machado’s right foot about to touch first. He’s looking down and his left foot is in the air. What the last gif shows is Machado putting his foot down and dragging his toe directly into Aguilar’s foot. Machado looks like a wide receiver trying to make a catch before he goes out of bounds. We know Machado doesn’t normally run like that because he didn’t do it earlier in the game. Dragging the toe is an intentional action and not the result of simply running through the bag. For a closer look at the toe drag, there’s this.

Machado had just planted his right foot and had barely raised his left foot off the ground when he began dragging it. There’s little to suggest that the move was anything but purposeful. As for the intent, Machado could claim the dragging of his foot represented an attempt to give Aguilar a little more time to get his foot away from the bag. Given that Machado didn’t say anything of the sort, however — and that he managed to avoid Aguilar in the first inning on a similar play — it’s fair to conclude that’s not what Machado was doing.

After an examination of the other ground-ball outs that concluded with a throw to Aguilar, I feel comfortable saying that the latter’s foot was in a fairly normal position for this play. So what was Machado doing? He intentionally changed the path of his foot so he would hit Aguilar. The Brewers first baseman was exposed and Machado intentionally made contact. Given the huge number of plays that end with throws to first basemen and the relatively rare instances of events like this, it’s reasonable to conclude that such a thing can be easily avoided. The play, in other words, was dirty — and likely carried a certain risk of injury.

As for any kind of suspension, that seems unlikely either now or in the future. Back in 2015, Chase Utley was suspended two games for a slide against Ruben Tejada in the playoffs that broke the latter’s leg. Utley appealed the decision so that it would not take place during the playoffs. Once the season was over, the league opted not to suspend Utley for any 2016 games, as the original appeal had made the suspension somewhat meaningless. The league then changed the enforcement of the slide rule to prevent further injuries. Yuli Gurriel was suspended five games this season for racist gestures made during the 2017 World Series, but such an arrangement seems less likely in Machado’s case due to his impending free agency.

While Machado did create this situation himself, it seems doubtful the league wants a marquee player on the verge of signing a massive contract to join a new club only to miss the first few games of next season. Assuming MLB takes action against Machado, a fine seems the most likely outcome. The umpires might also want to issue warnings to both benches before the start of any game the rest of this series.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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5 years ago

I’m seeing lot’s of “Page not found … Looks like this page doesn’t exist!” messages.

5 years ago
Reply to  digiderek

Not defending Machado, but why didn’t Aguilar pull his foot off the bag once he caught the ball? Most 1B pull off to get out of harm’s way…maybe a little gamesmanship from Aguilar that Machado reacted to. There is no defense for Machados childish reaction but the opportunity to swipe the leg should not have been present to begin with.

5 years ago
Reply to  CCSAGE

Righty first baseman have their foot like that, which also can make it appear as if their foot didn’t touch the bag. He left it so the ump could see it, it’s a typical righty first baseman move, one Aguilar does almost every play…

Unless he “gamesmanship”s every single runner…

5 years ago
Reply to  tb.25

Tb25 – I completely disagree. This is not a righty/lefty issue at all, almost every 1b pulls their foot after the putout to avoid this very scenario

5 years ago
Reply to  CCSAGE

Bull! Going after the leg of a defenseless player is dirty and gutless.