The New York Yankees are considered to be the favorite in the Manny Machado sweepstakes. They have money to spend, they have a hole in the left side of their infield, and they need a great all-around hitter to complete their lineup. Machado seems to be a perfect fit in the Bronx.
Strangely, many Yankees fans do not want to see Machado in pinstripes. Some fans fear that his lack of hustle will pervade the clubhouse and will cause the Yankees to become a lazy team. This argument does not make sense because the Yankees’ youngsters are old enough to have established their own unique way of playing the game of baseball. And besides, Gary Sanchez has already been punished multiple times by the team for his lack of hustle and casual demeanor behind the plate.
Fans may not like Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comments, but Machado is not going to change who he is at this point in his career. Machado will continue to be a perennial MVP candidate and will be one of the top ten hitters in the game for at least the next several years. At 26 years old, Machado will be an All-Star caliber player for the next several years.
Machado’s lack of hustle should not and will not prevent the Yankees from signing him. However, there is one big reason why the Yankees should hesitate to sign the talented infielder.
The reason is that Machado has struggled in the postseason. Admittedly, he has only played in 23 postseason games. That is a small sample size. His 89 at bats barely constitute the equivalent of one month of regular season action.
Despite the small sample size, it is clear that Machado is not the same hitter in October that he is in the regular season. Throughout his career, he has a .822 OPS, which is almost 100 points better than the OPS of the average major leaguer. Machado’s career postseason OPS is just .650, which means that his production drops significantly in the month of October. His postseason OPS is cause for concern because the Yankees are essentially signing him to help them get over the hump in the playoffs. In the past two seasons, they have not been able to score enough runs in elimination games. They need improve their situational hitting so that they can have the success that the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros have had in the past few seasons. Would the addition of Machado solve this problem for the Yankees? If the past is any indication, then the answer to that question is a hard no.
On the other hand, it is certainly possible for Machado to break out of his postseason slump and perform better in the future. In recent years, there have been several players who have shed the “postseason underachiever” label. The Yankees are no strangers to this phenomenon, as Alex Rodriguez struggled in the playoffs from 2004 to 2007 before being named Postseason MVP for his heroics during the Yankees’ World Series run in 2009. A few months ago, Red Sox starting pitcher David Price entered the 2018 postseason with a 2-8 record and a 5.03 ERA in 17 games (nine starts). In 2018, he went 3-1 with a 3.46 ERA in six games (five starts). He was much better than those numbers would indicate. Those numbers are being affected by his one bad start in the ALDS against the Yankees. The cases of Rodriguez and Price show that just because a player has struggled in big situations in the past does not mean he will struggle in those same situations in the future.
Machado’s postseason struggles are a red flag. Past performance is not always an indicator of future performance, but not every player conquers their demons the way Rodriguez and Price did. At the end of the day, the Yankees organization has the same goal every year. It is World Series or bust in the Bronx from the time Spring Training opens in February until the postseason ends in October. With that in mind, the team should take Machado’s postseason struggles into consideration before offering him a long-term contract.
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