Let’s not do this, guys.
It’s fun to have players to cheer against. Baseball certainly needs more villains in the sport, and Manny Machado looks like he could fill that role for the league.
But not in Baltimore. Not on his return.
It’s popular to boo players who have gone on to greener pastures, especially when they’re still talented enough to be coveted by their original teams. But Manny Machado is no longer an Oriole because of the Orioles themselves, not Machado.
This isn’t the Bryce Harper return, after he turned down a legitimate offer from the Nationals to sign with their most hated rivals. Machado was traded away, and then wasn’t offered a contract last offseason. Furthermore, the Orioles, unlike the Nationals, have no designs on competing in the next few years. It never would have made sense for Machado to waste his prime years on a team starting over from scratch.
He knew it, the Orioles knew it, and thankfully, fans in Baltimore knew it too.
I’ve never been one to tell fans how to spend their time at the ballpark, or whether or not they are “real” fans based on whether they choose to jeer or cheer. It’s their money and their fandom; I have no place to judge it.
That said, please don’t boo Machado.
To be clear, it’s not immunity from all boos in perpetuity. If Machado ever comes out and throws his bat at Trey Mancini or charges the mound at Dylan Bundy, then by all means, deafen him.
But that doesn’t sound like the Manny Machado Orioles fans came to know and love over the years, does it?
Machado gave Baltimore everything he had for more than half a decade, and the city loved him for it. He provided violent home run swings and graceful plays in the field. He filled the memories of Orioles fans with literal countless unbelievable moments.
He was the most purely talented player the Orioles have ever employed, and he did something no player was able to do from 1998-2011: Get the O’s to the postseason again.
If for no other reason, the magical 2012 run cements Machado as a player with too strong a legacy in Charm City to get booed in his first game in the city as a visitor.
Thankfully, much of this probably doesn’t need to be said. Baltimore fans are a smart bunch, and they understand the situation Machado was in. Besides, who among us would turn down $300 million to live in San Diego?
When Machado steps to the plate Tuesday night, give Machado the sendoff he never got after his trade. Remind him how much joy he brought to the city for such a long time. Remind yourselves that, in rare situations, it’s okay to give an ovation to an opposing player. Remind everyone of what makes Baltimore fans special, by reminding Manny Machado of what made him so special to us.
Do this however you choose. Make a sign. Ask for an autograph. Wear his jersey. Cheer.
Just don’t boo.
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