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There’s a lot to love (and hate) about Dodgers’ Manny Machado

Brewers fans scream at the Dodgers' Manny Machado after he strikes out during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in Milwaukee on  Oct. 19, 2018. (Associated Press)
Brewers fans scream at the Dodgers' Manny Machado after he strikes out during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in Milwaukee on Oct. 19, 2018. (Associated Press)
Published Oct. 27, 2018
Updated Oct. 27, 2018

LOS ANGELES — There again will be a time when the talk around Manny Machado will be about his awesome talent, skills and performance on the field.

Just not so much right now.

Though Machado received a roaring ovation from the Dodger Stadium fans before Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night, much of the reaction elsewhere has not been nearly as kind. And he might have turned some of those cheers to boos with his latest.

Always a bit polarizing, Machado has branded himself worse the last couple of weeks.

Essentially, No. 8 in Dodger blue is baseball's No. 1 villain.

He broiled old-schoolers by saying he would never be "Johnny Hustle" in running down the line as it wasn't his "cup of tea"; antagonized the Brewers several times during the National League Championship Series, most pointedly by running into first baseman Jesus Aguilar's foot, then called "a dirty player" by outfielder Christian Yelich and drawing shade from manager Craig Counsell; and made a series of crotch-related gestures to Milwaukee fans.

At Monday's Series media day, he passed on the obvious olive branch when asked about his April 2017 slide that injured Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and sparked beanball retaliation, saying there would be no reconciliatory conversation because "we're not friends.''

In Game 2 on Wednesday, Machado was so blatant in seemingly stealing signs from second and relaying them to hitters that Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie spoke openly about it to reporters.

Then in the sixth inning Friday, with a 1-0 lead, Machado did it again: He stood near home plate and held his bat aloft to admire a drive he hit — that bounced off the leftfield wall, resulting in just a single.

All this as Machado, 25, prepares to head into free agency eyeing what is likely to be the largest free agent contract ever.

The Phillies and Yankees are rumored to be most interested, maybe enough to forgive his past sins and throw $300 million to land one of the game's best players. The Dodgers, who gave up five prospects to get him from the Orioles in a July trade, are not expected to bid high, even though a case can be made they could use more than Bryce Harper.

Even Machado's nonplussed reaction to the storm around him has become a point of contention to some.

"I'm a Dodger, I'm here to win a World Series and that's all that matters now,'' he said, over and over in assorted iterations.

Most players object to the stain of being called "dirty.'' Machado, not so much.

"I play hard for my ballclub,'' he said. "Whatever uniform I put on, I'm going to bleed and die. I hustle, I run down the line, I do whatever I can to win ball games. Those are the only things we can control as baseball players.''

As much as Machado, who played 6½ seasons with Baltimore, has made enemies, he also has made friends.
But even some of them are scratching their heads a bit.

"I know what kind of person he is,'' said former Orioles teammate, and current Red Sox, Steve Pearce. "He's one of my favorite people of all time. I still have a relationship with him. I still root for him.

"It's unfortunate everything that's going on with him right now because, for me personally, that's not the type of guy he is. I hope he turns it around and maybe makes everybody forget about what's going on.''

Knowing how much they need him, Dodger teammates, understandably, seemed to have circled around him in support.

Asked Friday about the Manny Machado experience, starter Rich Hill bristled at the insinuation.

"Well, I wouldn't call it an 'experience.' He's my teammate. No offense to the question, but I look at it as he's a great competitor. He's incredible in the clubhouse, and obviously he's an incredible talent. I think it's something that we're extremely fortunate to get him at the time that we did,'' Hill said.

"It amazes me the plays that he makes out in the field, his ability to be athletic or as athletic as any infielder as I've seen, whether he's at third or he's at short. And just something that he has been very even-keeled. … Whatever it might be, a big hit in the game, a big play. He doesn't ride the highs and lows.

"So it's something that — he's obviously one of the best in the game. And he's going to continue to be one of the best in the game. And for all of us to be around him and have this opportunity … just to take advantage of that and make sure that we all can do the best that we can in the situations that we're in.''

In a way, Machado's ability not to let the noise get to him is a skill to be appreciated.

"He's doing whatever he feels necessary to help us win baseball games,'' manager Dave Roberts said. "I don't think the attention that he's receiving is affecting him. I think he just has a good way to channel that for the positive.''

One way or another, Machado will make it interesting.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.