Manny Machado messed up in more ways than one this past postseason while with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not only did he intentionally kick Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar, he also blatantly said he does not hustle.
If any other impending free agent said and did such things, just a month prior to free agency, Phillies fans 99 times out of 100 would want no parts of him. But, Machado is different. He is that one player that seems to be getting the free pass — albeit with caution.
"When you go out and make a comment like that — that 'I'm not a guy who hustles' — that is not totally disqualifying in a city like Philadelphia, but it gives everybody from ownership on down reason to think about 'is this going to work here or be worth it?'" NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury said Saturday on SportsRadio 94 WIP with Glen Macnow and Ray Didinger.
"Ultimately, I think talent will rule the day and [the Phillies will] stay in on [trying to sign Machado]. If they can get him, I think they'll be very happy."
Looking past Machado's antics — and instead focusing on his potential impact — should remain the primary focus, per Salisbury. "I still think he's young. I do think people can see the light. I'm not sure he will, but [the Phillies] are in it, and they're going to see what happens."
Proper clubhouse etiquette can be taught, not All-Star-caliber talent — which Machado has. Current Phillies like Rhys Hoskins — who Salisbury said has a "stronger personality" than Machado — could "rub off" on him, if signed.
Salisbury said Machado's hustle comments — not so much the Aguilar play — definitely hurt him, given Phillies fans "pay the bills" and "what they think matters."
"We all know that Philadelphians and the people that pay the bills like a certain kind of player," Salisbury said. "It goes back to [Chuck] Bednarik, [Brian] Dawkins, [Chase] Utley and Bobby Clarke. They like guys who play hard, who play their ass off."
In order for Machado's talent to "rule the day" — and his antics to not affect the overall chemistry of the team — Salisbury said "winning and producing" is the "ultimate form of damage control."
"I think if [Machado] goes out there and is the Player of the Month in June, hits a big walk-off home run some warm night in Citizens Bank Park, and ultimately helps this team win, that's the ultimate form of damage control," Salisbury said.
Even though the Phillies have recently been linked as a contender to sign Bryce Harper, they have been "in" on Machado for much longer. "At the end of the season — 5-6 weeks ago — I think [Machado] was probably No. 1 on their offseason wishlist, just because he was No. 1 on their offseason wishlist in July," Salisbury said. "He's been that way for a couple years."
And while Machado's comments have given the Phillies "some pause," the club's need for talented players to complement Hoskins remains. Phillies brass well understands everything about Machado from their days with the Baltimore Orioles.
"He's a talented guy, and in someways a better baseball fit than Bryce Harper, because he plays shortstop and third base — two positions they have needs at," Salisbury said. "They pursued him in July, and he was the same guy. They know him well."
"He was a diva in Baltimore ... he would maybe not run out a ball. I think we've all seen that you can still survive with a player like that, as long as that player is a productive player."