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Manny Machado was ‘bush league?’ How?

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres

SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 2: San Diego Padres manager Andy Green argues with umpire Mike Everitt as bench coach Rod Barajas holds back Manny Machado #13 after Green was ejected from the game during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park April 2, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

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I mentioned this in the recaps this morning, but last night there was a minor controversy in the Padres-Diamondbacks game involving Manny Machado. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Machado was called out for interference as Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy tried to catch a popup near the plate. There are three data points to the play worth noting:

  • First, Machado almost bumped into Murphy, though it appeared to be inadvertent, as Machado was looking up at the pop up and only realized he was near Murphy just as he looked down and avoided a bump;
  • Second, Machado dropped his bat near Murphy. Though, in my view -- you can judge for yourself in the clip below -- it did not appear as though it was dropped with any intent to trip up Murphy. Regardless, Murphy missed the popup, the umpire called Machado for interference and was called out; and
  • Third, Murphy himself said after the game that he didn’t think there was any contact and that nothing in the play affected his ability to catch the ball. In the moment Murphy gave no impression whatsoever that he thought he had been interfered with. Indeed, he looked a bit surprised that the ump called interference.

Manager Andy Green came out to argue, with his point being that there was no contact, so how could Machado be out? As is almost always the case, the call stood. Here is umpire Tim Welke’s interpretation:

Welke told a pool reporter that it doesn’t matter if there’s contact and that Machado was called out for “what was going on at home plate . . . The minute the batter makes contact with the ball, he’s no longer the batter; he’s the batter-runner. The batter-runner has to give way to a fielder making a play on a batted ball. It doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or not. A runner always has to give way to a fielder making a play on a batted ball.’'

While a bit less than illuminating, it appears that he thought, intent aside, the bat got in Murphy’s way, so it was interference. If so, I don’t think that’s a terribly unreasonable call. Maybe it’s a borderline one, but it’s better to protect the catcher in that situation than not, so it’s fine. If it was close and could go wither way let us acknowledge that, hey, it was Machado here. I have defended Machado in the past, but (a) he has a reputation for some dirty play, not wholly unearned; so (b) he’s not going to get the benefit of the doubt on close calls. He’s made his bed, I get it, and I don’t think the call was anything approaching a great injustice even if I’m not 100% certain I’d call it that way.

Either way: the umpire’s call stood, Machado was out, Green got ejected for arguing, no Padres or Dbacks players seemed too worked up about the play one way or the other and the world continued to spin on its axis.

But someone did get worked up. The Dbacks announcers, Steve Berthiaume and Bob Brenly, specifically. Get this:

I’m not sure what is “bush league” there. Can someone tell me what, apart from this being Manny Machado as opposed to some other player, made this “bush league?” Before you answer, know that you can watch much more than that if you have and can replay the game (the stuff in question starts at the two hour, eleven minute mark).

Immediately after the play, and before they had a chance to see the replay, Brenly said, accusingly, “did Machado go out of his way to put the bat at Murphy’s feet?” I put the question mark on that but it wasn’t a question. It was a conclusion. Brenly was certain that Machado was throwing his at Murphy. The “bush league” comment came when they watched the replay.

In the wake of the replay, Brenly went on about how “Machado, one day, is gonna pull one of his hijinks on the wrong guy and he’s gonna get dropped in his tracks, and he’s gonna deserve it,” as Berthiaume threw in a some “yeahs!” Brenly again called it “all such a bush league act.” They went on to talk about how Machado will always be the villain and “we just saw why.”

After the play was over and the next batter came to the plate, the camera focused on Machado in the dugout and Berthiaume offered a disgusted “300 million dollars!” while Brenly offered another “just a tired act.” They showed the replay again, and this time, from the center field angle, it was plainly obvious that the near-bump between the Machado and Murphy was accidental (Machado reacted in surprise and pulled back when he realized he was near Murphy) yet Brenly called at as if it were on purpose, adding a disgusted “and just to make sure, tosses the bat near his feet” as if this were some premeditated crime.

Again, all of this came on a play in which not even the guy who was allegedly interfered with thought he was really interfered with, and on a play which no one, to my knowledge anyway, called dirty after the game. Again, on a call that did not even require ill intention to be made. It was a fairly pedestrian baseball play that just happened, yet these guys made it sound like Machado kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. It made some of Joe Simpson’s old grumpy rants seem like utter obsequiousness. It was like that time Joe Buck got all worked up about Randy Moss, except it was over nothing more than two guys almost bumping into each other.

You think maybe the Dbacks announcers were importing their pre-existing feelings about Machado into that game? I sure do. Because there was nothing on Earth that went down on that play that called for that response. It was a pretty bad look from those two in my view.

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