Manny Machado is the first Baltimore sports superstar whose career I remember in entirety. As a 20-year old, die-hard O’s fan, Machado’s promotion to the major leagues in August 2012 brought a sense of hope about the ballclub that I had never before felt. So, when he donned an Orioles uniform for the final time at the All-Star game this past week, I couldn’t help but be emotional. He was a stud, a generational talent, and instead of spending my weekly blog analyzing the return on his trade or condemning the club for forcing themselves to deal him, I feel it is more appropriate to recognize what Manny meant to Baltimore.
For thirteen seasons, the Orioles were the laughingstock of the MLB. They generated little excitement and were so bad that until I reached high school, I was so accustomed to watching a losing team that I couldn’t recognize how poor they were. That all changed when Manny Machado was drafted and began working his way through the farm system.
The 2012 season was magical for Baltimore, and while Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis and Chris Davis led the way for the majority of it, Machado seemed to be the piece that truly pushed them into the playoffs. He was the face of their newborn relevancy and quickly began to challenge Jones as the face of the franchise.
From there, Manny became the best player the Orioles had since Cal Ripken, Jr. He flashed at the hot corner, making highlight plays nearly every night, and smashed American League pitching, immediately becoming a force in the middle of the O’s lineup. Each year he seemed to get better, both as a player and a person, learning to manage the pressure of being an icon of the MLB. There were some questionable moments (sorry, Josh Donaldson and Yordano Ventura), but in all, I think Baltimore is extremely proud to have witnessed his growth. It’s a shame that we couldn’t have seen it through.
To Manny – Thank you for the hope, excitement, awe, and enjoyment you brought to our city in your seven outstanding seasons here. Your impact on the Baltimore Orioles franchise will never be forgotten, and though we all wish you could have worn the orange and black for your entire career, we will pull for you and continue to watch you thrive for years to come. You will always have a home in Baltimore. Thanks for everything.