There has been much speculation about what Manny Machado’s bat throwing incident yesterday might mean, and whether or not to believe his explanation that it was an accidental slip.
The Baltimore Sun has a good roundup of the incident, including the blow-by-blow and the backstory, which involves Machado receiving a hard tag at third base in Friday night’s game.
Most notably, the Sun’s coverage points out that crew chief Larry Vanover did speak about his ejection of both Manny Machado and Oakland pitcher Fernando Abad, saying:
“It was obvious the pitcher threw at him the second time. And then [Machado] threw the bat. That wasn’t accidental. He threw the bat, so two ejections.”
The video is far away and cuts angles so that we do not see the entire exchange and reaction leading to Machado’s ejection. We have only the player’s statement about his intentions, and the judgment of a professional observer as to his presentation at the time. Still, speculation will run wild.
Nate Scott over at USAToday.com‘s For The Win blog flat out states that he does not believe Machado’s explanation that the bat “slipped.” In his analysis, he points to the stare that Manny Machado gave the mound after that first knee-grazing pitch pushed him off balance as evidence that Machado was intentionally sending a message with that thrown bat.
Over at The Strike Zone, Ben Reitler points out that, despite the clash between Machado and Abad, neither team seems overly enthusiastic about rushing the field for a mid-game brawl.
David Schoenfield, of ESPN.com’s SweetSpot blog, puts his views in no uncertain terms, titling his analysis “Manny Machado must be suspended.” As he reports, the swing-and-release was so lat that “even Orioles play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne accused Machado of deliberately releasing the bat.”
Schoenfield calls for Machado to be out for at least five games. He cites Friday night’s hard tag, which he characterized as having “nothing improper” about it because the third baseman “has the right to tag” a runner. While that characterization is a literal description of events, it does not directly square with the video above. Still, it is difficult for a streaming video highlight reel to capture the close-up drama of the moment-by-moment play of the game.
More interesting than his take on the tag, though, is Schoenfield’s mention of Machado hitting A’s catcher Derek Norris with a backswing earlier in that game. He alleges that Machado did not even look back to assess Norris’s condition as he attempted to shake off the blow, which wound up knocking him out of the remainder of the game.
Schoenfield’s analysis is powerful, and indicative of a toxic air between the teams that is larger than just Manny Machado, but it remains to be seen whether his prediction of a five-game suspension will prove true or not.