Calling the Pen: Open letter from a fan to Machado - 'You gave us hope, Manny' - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Baseball Essays

Calling the Pen: Open letter from a fan to Machado — ‘You gave us hope, Manny’

Photo illustration: Joy R. Absalon

Dear Manny,

In a perfect world, we would look up at the stands in left field one day at Camden Yards, and there would be an orange number 13. We’d walk over to the statues beyond center field, and we’d see Cal, Earl, Frank, Eddie, Jim and Brooks. Then we’d see a tall bronze statue of another one of the greatest all-time Orioles — you. However, this isn’t a perfect world.

You came in as a 20-year-old kid from Miami with more talent than anyone could imagine — a powerful arm, the smoothest swing in baseball and a glove like no other. In 2012, you were the spark the Orioles needed to become relevant, the missing piece that eventually became the face of the Orioles.

They compared you to Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, but you were like no other. Manny Machado was ready to set the baseball world on fire. We watched you make plays that didn’t seem possible. The open stance, the Jordan cleats, the arm sleeve, the swagger, the beautiful long swing that made pitchers regret hanging curveballs, and Gary Thorne rejoicing: “Goodbye, Home Run, Manny Machado!”

We would go to the Yard and all we would see is number 13 on everyone’s back. No other player since Cal Ripken was as iconic as you. The All-Star games, the Gold Gloves, the playoff games, the Yard cheering: “Manny! Manny! Manny!” — it was what you deserved, and it was what you got. You were a kid playing with passion, loving the game of baseball and not regretting anything when you stepped between those lines.

We watched you grow up. You went from a quick-tempered player to a leader, someone who knew how valuable you were to the team and someone other players counted on.

You gave us hope, Manny. We aren’t the Yankees or the Red Sox. We can’t just go buy another superstar and lure free agents with promises of rings and loads of cash. Even if we could, we couldn’t replace you.

When you put on that orange-and-black uniform, it made us feel like we could take down Goliath, because we had a superstar and weren’t going to back down from anyone. It made us hope for something better than third place and a mediocre season. You were the Orioles’ icon, the greatest player since Cal. And, possibly, you could’ve become the greatest Oriole ever.

This season has been bittersweet. We have had four months to prepare for this separation. It has been hard watching the team crumble, and it has taken the suspense out of wondering whether we could retain you in the offseason.

You have been the only bright spot in a season that has felt more like a Greek tragedy. No number of minor leaguers will replace you, no rising star, no young kid with promise can replace the talent you have.

Baseball is a business, and you deserve all the money that will be coming your way. The front office failed you; they failed us. You’re a once-in-a-generation-type talent that came through Baltimore, and got the fans excited about Orioles baseball again.

I’m done being mad. I had all of April to be mad. I am sitting back and remembering the good times. It’s going to be bittersweet watching you in one last All-Star Game in orange and black. This is the next chapter for both of us.

You’ll be a star wherever you go, and no team should make the mistake the Orioles did. It’s going to be back to rough times in Baltimore, but it’s time to take a step back and thank you for making us feel so alive.

In a perfect world, Manny Machado would be an Oriole for life. However, this isn’t a perfect world.

I am speaking for the entire Orioles fan base when I say, “Thank you, Manny!”

 

Johnny Kleissas was born and raised on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He’s a junior at West Virginia University, studying sports communication and advertising. He has spent his spring and summers playing baseball (all-conference three times in high school) and at Camden Yards watching the O’s.

Editor’s Note: The departure of Mike Mussina to the Yankees comes closest to the feelings for Machado. From 1991-2000, Mussina was 147-81 for the Orioles before the team dragged its feet in its offer to re-sign him, and he chose the Yankees. Some fans never felt the same about Mussina, but I couldn’t root against him. Like Machado, he was a superstar who was raised an Oriole and was a joy to watch. They both might wind up together in the Hall of Fame.

Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s “Calling the Pen,” a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to ‘Calling the Pen,” send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. PA Bird Lover

    July 14, 2018 at 10:00 am

    As always, the FO has destroyed each years team with their incompetence. I don’t recall reading that an offer was handed to Manny in an attempt to keep him in Baltimore. A number of great stars we lost (Cruz) because of the FO indecisiveness. I for one blame PA for all of the team’s, year after year plights.

  2. Bancells Moustache

    July 14, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Johnny this is a nicely written piece, I’m not trolling, and I always got love for a fellow Shore boy. That being said:

    Pump. The. Brakes.

    Come on now. Machado was a good player for a number of years. He wasn’t the physical embodiment of our Lord and savior. He was touted as the 21st century Brooks Robinson. For that we got 3 years of good baseball, 1 year of rookie ball with flashes, one year of injuries and 4 months of superstar-level baseball (just in time to cash the big check in the winter).

    The 2012 team was already shocking the world when Machado arrived in the late summer as part time contributor, hardly the spark to make them relevant. Jones, Hardy, Markakis, Reynolds, McClouth etc. had already done that.

    During the 2014 season, the one time the Orioles WERE a truly top-tier ballclub, Manny showed up in late spring, was back on the DL in August and was most noted for throwing his bat at the Oakland Athletics.

    The one time he played up to his superstar potential in an Oriole uniform it was in his walk year, during which he screwed the teams defense and chemistry up with a demanded move to SS, continued to make base running blunders a kid playing for Easton High School shouldn’t make, all as the team played arguably the worst baseball in its 67 year history.

    I would argue at no point has Machado been the face of the Orioles. For the first years of his career that was Adam Jones, while the last two seasons have unfortunately been most linked to a frowning Chris Davis walking back to the dugout after going down looking.

    As for his deserving the money that will no doubt be snow-shoveled his way, no he doesn’t. Because, quite frankly, unless by the stroke of your hand you can cure cancer in small children, NO ONE deserves 300 million bucks.

    Also, it’s tough to digest the notion the front office failed Machado when it put a 96 win team around him.

    So long Mr. Machado. Enjoy counting your millions and yachting with A-Rod. Ballplayers come and ballplayers go in the 21st century, but the Baltimore Orioles remain. You played a great third base, but just as Eddie, Moose, Miggy, Alomar and countless others have proven, there will be another one along soon enough.

    • Wisconsin O's Fan

      July 14, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      I feel the same way about this situation. Manny is definitely the most talented player on the team, but personally I will be more upset if/when Jones leaves.

  3. jkneps63

    July 14, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Dear Manny,

    You did not give me hope, sorry! You provided a great example of how millions of dollars corrupts athletes, not hustling all the time, throwing bats, and generally acting like a putz. I am not impressed that during a contract year you have posted BY FAR your best slash line, that reveals a lot about your character. I suppose once you get a new obscene contract, you will return to both your average slash line or worse and recommence your putz-like behavior.

    I say good riddance!

    jkneps63

  4. rhodesgolfer

    July 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Whomever is responding to this with negativity…you are high! If you don’t think Manny is everything this writer says he is, you don’t understand baseball and you’re simply a contrarian and a cynic. You can rattle off good years versus bad, attitude, whatever but, seriously, do you have eyes? Can you not see how gifted this guy is? If you can’t, I can’t help you. There’s always “that guy” man. Unreal!

    • snevars

      July 14, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      I have eyes and read your post. I agree Machado is a “good” player, but he’s not great. He’s got an “all about me” attitude and in my opinion is part of the reason Buck Showalter has lost the clubhouse. The biggest example of his selfishness is DEMANDING he move to SS. His defense there sucks and his demand left the Orioles scurrying to patch together a defense. Plus look at the effect he has had on Schoop’s attitude.
      He’s gifted alright, but his million dollar talent can’t make up for his 10 cent head.
      Good riddance to him and let him go be a cancer on some other team. I sure can’t see the Yankees or Dodgers management putting up with his demands.
      SEE YA!.

      • rhodesgolfer

        July 14, 2018 at 5:46 pm

        You are stuck trying to compare a kid with a legend. Cal grew into a legend. My point is, Manny will do this elsewhere. But this kid is a generational talent, period. He will be a Hall of Famer, period. If you’re looking for the next Cal, you’ll continue to be a curmudgeon. This isn’t Manny’s fault. This is the ineptness of an owner and a GM who should be publicly hanged in The Inner Harbor.

    • Bancells Moustache

      July 14, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      Rhodes, nobody is disputing Machado is a good ballplayer. He could be a great ballplayer. He’s just never been one in Baltimore. To call him an icon in the same breath as Ripken is just absurd. I hold my icons to a higher standard. The Palmers and Robinsons with statues in centerfield earned their legendary status with glittering careers and achievements. Machado? It was a nice couple years, but he ain’t no statue.

  5. Mau

    July 14, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Well, I was blessed to see the REAL great O’s teams and organization of the late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. Manny is a great talent but he’ll be a footnote in O’s history. No real team achievement during his tenure, certainly no threat to win a WS. He’s no Cal, Frank, Eddie, Boog, Brooks, Palmer, etc., whose names in O’s lore will live on. The move to SS this year was a selfish one. It certainly hasn’t helped the TEAM and hasn’t really helped Manny either. He’s a GG 3B. He’s an average SS.

    The O’s organization failed Manny and its fans by not aggressively trying to re-sign the face of its franchise when it was prudent to do so. Manny is doing what is expected of him. Follow the money like a cow does grass. $300 million reasons to become a hired gun for the O’s arch enemy to the north. Like Mussina before him, if Manny does sign with New York after this seasons second half rental to them or whomever, his time as an O has a permanent asterisk attached to it. He should be booed and heckled when he returns regularly.

    I know Manny’s cousin. If Manny had his druthers he’d be playing in Miami. I can respect that and I’d buy a jersey and go to the ballpark to watch him play. That being said New York has a large Dominican community. Should be interesting to see how this plays out. Can anyone really blame literally anyone for not wanting to play for the Angelos’?

  6. Herman213

    July 14, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    I named my cat Manny! . If he goes to the Yankees I might rename him because every time I look at him he would be a pinstriped cat. Can’t imagine the pain of it. Any team but the damn Yankees!

    • Mau

      July 14, 2018 at 8:26 pm

      One of my “friends”, while I was growing up in the DC area, said he bought a dog, named him after me and would kick him every day. LOL. Haven’t spoken to that little circle of “friends” in decades and I’ve been much better off for it. Hope that dog pissed on his leg or elsewhere.

  7. pzinder

    July 15, 2018 at 7:07 am

    This letter could not have been better written. It is not Manny’s fault that the front office, again, failed to lock up our best player early in his career. Mussina’s departure was so painful for me for that reason, and because we received nothing in return from a trade. Manny’s impending departure is a true blow to the team, and not just because of his greatness (I do believe that he would have gone down as the greatest O who ever played), but because we drafted him, we raised him, we loved him, and we’ll miss him (so much). No matter what the haters say, their bitterness is ignoring the fact that Manny was, and will be, king. Good news is, we’ll always have part of his personal history as one of the best players of his generation. He was an Oriole, no matter what happens now. Bye, Manny. Sorry to see you go.

  8. Borg

    July 15, 2018 at 7:49 am

    I can understand people waxing poetic over Machado-his flashes of brilliant play make it easy to think he will go down as a great player. And I can say, as someone who grew up watching Brooks Robinson play third every day, that Machado is the best fielding third baseman I have ever seen. But he dogs it enough that I wonder how that will play in the market who ends up giving him $35 million or more per season. If I am a Yankee fan (I’m presuming that’s where he’ll go) and he has that paycheck and then trots out a DP ball I’d be booing along with 50,000 of my fellow fans.

    Machado hurt the O’s with his demands to move to SS, he is at best an average SS while he is a GREAT third baseman, so he hurts the O’s in two places. As a hitter, while he always seems to be on the brink of a breakthrough year we’re still waiting for the .300 season and 100 RBI year. Doubtful that it’s a coincidence that both seem possible in his walk year.

    All that being said, this departure falls squarely on the O’s shoulders, not Machado’s. When they signed Davis to that ridiculous contract I thought it meant they were going to open the wallet for both Machado and Schoop. They could have probably signed both to four or five year extensions at a fraction of what it would cost now, but like the lawyer he is Angelos always seems to want every possibly contingency taken care of before he acts. No doubt he hoped Machado would be just good and not great and they could get him cheaper. So now the O’s just have to get what they can for him and move on. Mediocre years are a’comin’.

  9. Churchton

    July 16, 2018 at 1:52 am

    So true so sad but so true

  10. SoCal Baltimoron

    July 17, 2018 at 3:34 am

    Curt Flood, money and poor leadership destroyed Major League Baseball. No longer can u become attached to a local hero. And the sport does not have a level playing field. MLB is invested in the NY Yankees. Look at the charlatan trade of Giancarlo Stanton to them by ex Yankee Jeter for peanuts. Teams like the Os are just meant to be MLBs version of the Washington Generals, who were served up as fodder to the Harlem Globetrotters and whose job was to make them look good.

    • Borg

      July 17, 2018 at 4:56 pm

      The Orioles problem is poor front office and field management. Blaming it on the NY Yankees or some conspiracy ignores the issue that they simply have done a poor job of keeping resources. MAchado was never even offered an extension, something that should have been at least tried two or three years ago before he got to his walk year. They will be doing the same poor job with Schoop–why not offer a four or five year extension RIGHT NOW instead of waiting until he is. In his free agent year. And, for the record, Major League Baseball is drawing far more fans now than in the pre-Curt Flood days. Free agency has added interest, not subtracted it. Not to mention that a team controlling a player forever interferes with their right to sell their services to the highest bidder–you know, just like you can do with your job.

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