CARLSBAD, Calif. — Manny Machado made waves during the postseason with something that haunts public-relations professionals’ nightmares.
After catching heat for not running out a ground ball during the NLCS, Machado, then the Los Angeles Dodgers’ shortstop and now one of the most coveted players on the free-agent market, told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that he’s not “Johnny Hustle” and that busting it down the line on routine ground balls just “isn’t my cup of tea.”
Maybe those comments made you wince, maybe they didn’t. It seems rather unlikely it’s going to cost him that much money, with Machado still expected to receive one of the biggest contracts in baseball history for what he can do with a bat and a glove.
But one thing they did do was contrast sharply with the everyday philosophy of White Sox manager Rick Renteria. And considering the White Sox have already been linked to Machado in the early stages of the offseason, you wonder how Machado’s stated attitude toward giving 100 percent on every play would factor into a potential pursuit.
Renteria was not at all shy about benching players, youngsters and veterans alike, throughout the season for not running out ground balls, line drives and pop ups. He even sat down Avisail Garcia during a spring training game for not giving it his all on one particular play.
And the White Sox have been completely supportive of the culture Renteria is establishing. They used “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” as a marketing slogan, and the team wore T-shirts with the No. 27 on them all season, the No. 27 signifying playing hard for all 27 outs. It doesn't get more supportive than handing your manager a contract extension, which general manager Rick Hahn revealed the White Sox did, even though they didn't feel the need to announce it. In other words: The White Sox are totally behind Renteria and everything he's doing as the South Side skipper.
Hahn, who would be the one to try to bring Machado to the South Side if the White Sox interest is as high as the baseball world believes it to be, saw through a question about this exact topic Tuesday during the GM Meetings. But it didn’t stop him from once more backing Renteria’s actions and the philosophies he’s implemented as manager.
“Not going to talk about any individual guys,” Hahn said, wise to the fact that “a potential addition” was this writer’s hastily crafted code for Manny Machado. “I will say that Ricky has created a culture of accountability in that clubhouse and one that we think is important and going to continue going forward. He's gotten a great deal of buy-in from players that were here from the start as well as the players that we've acquired since then. Buying into that culture is important.”
Perhaps that’s a declaration of confidence that Machado — or any big name the White Sox might acquire this offseason — would join that buy-in and adhere to Renteria’s philosophy. Perhaps it’s simply Hahn supporting his manager in a public setting.
Regardless, in the event the White Sox do land Machado, it’s going to be something that comes up. Would Renteria bench the team’s $300 million man if he didn't bust it down the first-base line? Or would the $300 million contract come with the stipulation that Machado better start learning to enjoy this particular cup of tea?