BALTIMORE -- Manny Machado, with his fiancée sitting to his left, his best friend to his right and his 4-month-old puppy on the floor, crinkles his nose and narrows his dark brown eyes.
Tuesday night, Alonso and Machado, who hail from the baseball hotbed of South Florida, met on a major league diamond for the first time when the Padres and Orioles played an interleague game at Camden Yards. I think the other guys will have great careers, but when you talk about the best young players in the game, why can't you involve Manny in it? Despite starting nearly four months after Trout and Harper, Machado proves he belongs in the conversation.
When Machado singled in his first at-bat and greeted Alonso, 26, their interaction differed from the usual in-game fraternization. He hit .294 with 12 homers and 50 RBI in his first 89 games, eclipsing Harper's production in a similar span and tying Trout in homers.
Alonso is not just a friend but about to become family. And Yonder is not waiting until the nuptials to speak his mind. This year, Machado, like Trout and Harper, has transcended wunderkind status and become a legitimate star.
Alonso's sister, 23-year-old Yainee, is Machado's fiancée. So much of the airwaves and digital universe have been dominated by the game's fair-haired youngsters, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, that Machado has been somewhat overlooked on the national landscape. You're not going to compare him to Trout and the other dude? Machado was batting .331 with 28 runs and 24 RBI entering Tuesday, and in the previous 19 games he hit .405 with 12 multiple-hit games, including three doubles, one triple, three homers and 13 RBI.
And, oh, how Yonder has noticed."It's wrong; it's just wrong," he says. Machado entered Tuesday with three consecutive three-hit games.
The only Orioles players with longer streaks are Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and Don Buford.All this, while evoking Charm City memories of Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson."And you tell me he's not as good as those two other guys?" says Yonder, who was batting .275 with four homers and 23 RBI entering Tuesday. He might be two months shy of legal drinking age, but he's mature enough to know not to join this debate."I just go about my business, put up numbers and do my thing," Machado says."Just go out there, have fun, and everything else will fall in place."One day, perhaps after the 2014 season when J. Hardy's contract expires, Machado will be back at shortstop, like Ripken and Alex Rodriguez in reverse.He already leads American League position players in WAR, which rates the total value of a player, and various defensive metrics rate him the best defensive third baseman in baseball.He'd love to show he can become the game's best shortstop, too."You think about it, it's in the back of your mind," says Machado, who ranks his meeting with Robinson this season as the highlight of his career.