GLENDALE, Ariz. — No, there wasn’t a surprise press conference early Wednesday morning. There wasn’t a shocking No. 13 jersey hanging in a locker in the White Sox clubhouse. Rick Hahn was walking around Camelback Ranch like it was business as usual.
But things aren’t the usual on report day here in Glendale, where everyone is still waiting to find out if Manny Machado is going to be suiting up for this team in 2019 and beyond.
Machado entered the offseason as a 26-year-old superstar cruising for a gigantic, potentially record-breaking deal. But pitchers and catchers have reported to camps across the majors, and Machado is still jobless. His fate isn’t the same as the many other unsigned free agents out there, as barring some insane holdout he’ll have a job come Opening Day. But his free agency — and that of Bryce Harper — continues, all while spring training has already begun.
On a day where the norm is to ask players about the upcoming season, what they did in the offseason, what it’s like for the newcomers to be a part of this team, instead all the questions were about the one guy who wasn’t here.
And that was especially the case for Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay, two offseason additions who are good friends and winter workout buddies with Machado. Alonso is Machado’s brother-in-law.
“I have no idea what Manny’s doing or what his family’s doing,” said Jay, the more verbose of the two when it came to this topic Wednesday morning. “Same thing I’ve said the whole time: It’s a private matter that he and his family will deal with. I’ve dealt with free agency, and even my best friends I don’t talk to about that stuff because it’s a private manner and you never know what’s going to happen.
“There’s a lot of emotions involved. You don’t want to report one thing, and then the next day it goes away or whatever. Manny’s a heck of a player, great work ethic. Like you’ve asked, he’ll do tremendous things for a team. But Manny’s going to do what’s best for Manny and his family.”
Alonso got all these questions a couple weeks ago during SoxFest, so with Machado still undecided, the same old questions were understandably, well, old.
“I don't know,” Alonso said when asked when Machado is going to make up his mind. “We'll see.
“You have to ask him that.”
That won’t stop the speculation train from chugging on, full speed ahead. Alonso and Jay have lockers right next to each other at Camelback Ranch, no surprise considering their friendship. There’s an empty locker next to Jay’s. Cue the social-media frenzy.
“I demanded an empty locker next to me,” Jay joked. “Just kidding, it just worked out that way. That might be one of the perks of being around a little bit longer.”
Both Alonso and Jay are valuable veteran additions to this team, and the contributions they can provide in helping guide along the cornerstones of the rebuilding effort shouldn’t be dismissed. But given the Machado cloud hanging over this team and this entire offseason, they’re being viewed through the lens of their relationships to Machado, first and foremost, by many fans.
The White Sox did not acquire these two players because of their ties to Machado. But there is an added benefit in that having these players allows them to offer something no other suitor in the derby can: the ability to play alongside two of his best friends, even if only for a little bit of what's expected to be a lengthy contract.
That doesn’t mean that Alonso and Jay have been part of the sales team, though.
“It’s his decision,” Jay said. “It’s something for him and his family to decide. He’s going to be playing for a lot longer than I am. Ultimately, it’s his decision, it’s his thing. He knows how I feel about him, he knows how Yonder feels about him, and we’ll see what happens.”
“Yesterday,” Alonso said when asked the last time he spoke to his brother-in-law. “We didn't talk about baseball. One hundred percent I can tell you that, we didn't talk about that.”
And so the baseball world spins on without a resolution. The White Sox start camp without a resolution. Maybe Machado will show up at some point. He’s not here yet. Until he is here — or in a big league camp somewhere else — there will be no change in the No. 1 topic of discussion.
Manny Mania persists.