I've watched the clip of Manny Machado preventing the death of Tommy Edman over and over again, and I want to applaud Machado for his quick thinking and obvious concern for Edman's well-being. It takes an exceptional human being to put the preservation of life above an opportunity to break up a potential double play. Machado deserves the Roberto Clemente Award and should definitely start working on his acceptance speech. Good for him.
Manny Machado was just doing what good people do - caring about others and trying to help whenever possible. His Herculean effort deserves praise and possibly a Presidential Medal of Freedom or a Nobel. Instead, he's being vilified for trying to save Tommy Edman the same way he tried to save Dustin Pedroia. That's unfortunate especially if you consider the way the play happened.
Machado had no way of knowing where the ball was hit, so he had no reason to expect that Edman would be anywhere near second base or even the infield. A split second before almost destroying the life of a player he may not be able to pick out of an actual lineup, he may have thought the ball had been crushed to left field. Situational awareness just isn't a thing. Life moves pretty fast.
In Machado's defense, his quick thinking took some potentially brutal outcomes off the table . He definitely had the option of launching himself into Edman in an attempt to drive him into the ground. Whew. Disaster avoided. He could have opted for a clothesline maneuver and then gone for the 3-count. Instead, he went for the safest possible choice which was to go to the ground in a stop, drop, and roll move.
Unfortunately, he's just too incredibly fast and strong for his own good. A human being traveling at 75 mph simply can't hit the breaks and come to a complete stop in a nanosecond. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. That's just inertia.
I don't know if Machado is a dirty player. To make that determination requires that I consider the player's entire body of work and not a singular event. In my mind I classify situations like this into 1 of 4 categories.
A dirty player made a dirty play.
A dirty player made a clean play.
A player who is not dirty made a dirty play.
A player who is not dirty made a clean play.
The key in making the distinction for me is intent beyond a reasonable doubt. I believe Machado's intent was trying to avoid being tagged. On this particular play, that's the only thing I'm 100% sure about. As for what went through his mind during the process of avoiding this awful fate I simply don't know.
I do know that he's not good at avoiding controversial slide attempts.
Even so, he's got a lot of people rushing to his defense with many proclaiming loudly that the play was both perfectly legal and not in the least bit dirty. Some are absolutely shocked that anyone could even consider the play dirty. Best of all, some of his staunchest supporters are telling everyone who doesn't agree with them that they are wrong.
Because telling someone that their opinion here is absolutely wrong is a great mechanism for winning hearts and minds. Welcome to Twitter circa 2006 which probably would've been a living hell for Mark Twain.
"Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -Mark Twain
Like most controversial events, this one is open to interpretation. It's probably a little naive or simply intellectually dishonest to act like nobody could interpret the play as dirty. In a world with anti-vaxxers, the Flat Earth Society, and Cubs fans, it's pretty reasonable to imagine that people think just about anything.
Try as you might, it's difficult to change someone's mind. However, MLB can change the rules and probably should.
Wrecking the catcher on the way to home plate was once a completely legal and normal play in baseball. It was actually encouraged and even celebrated by some. There was a time when demolishing a catcher would get you on the ESPN highlights and the catcher was praised for shaking it off and continuing the game.
Then MLB changed the rules to try and protect players. Umpires may blow the call at home (shocking), but at least the rule is there and provides some measure of protection for catchers. A runner can still decide to obliterate the catcher, and baseball can't prevent that, but it can eliminate the incentives for doing so. Disincentivizing collisions is a good start and doing so has forced players to rethink the situation. I'd argue that since the interpretation of plays at the plate is then subject to application of the collision rule that the resulting confusion has resulted in many erring on the side of caution. Maybe not. I'm just speculating.
With the scrutiny now placed on such plays and pretty much every other, I doubt many players want to build a reputation for hitting a defenseless player much less causing injury.
Player safety is very important. Accidents happen and injuries are part of the game, but the worst kinds are those willfully inflicted upon someone else. So was Machado willfully trying to hurt Edman? Was he ignorant of the injury potential? Is he just bad at running the bases? Is he an idiot?
Just trying to put myself in his position (minus the athletic, handsome, rich, good at baseball thing).
If I'm the runner, I'm worried first and foremost about my own safety. The safety of everyone else around me is secondary because I care about me more than I care about them. So option 1 is for me to avoid forceful contact, and option 2 is for me to not come out on the losing end in the event that forceful contact becomes unavoidable. If Machado has/had the same mindset, then I respect it and understand it.
If his sole focus was on breaking up the potential double play and things went awry, I understand it.
I just think he could've handled it differently. He had plenty of time to make a decision. It's plausible that he simply didn't react quickly enough or didn't have time to react as he might have liked. Plausible. Seems unlikely given the kind of reaction times most players have, but benefit of the doubt works here.
Ultimately, the conclusion of my thought process ended with a hypothetical, theoretical, and ecumenical situation.
If I imagine an identical play without knowing the names of the players or teams and had no context for the game, how would I judge the play?
Answer: Avoidable and unnecessary.
That's how I view the Machado-Edman play, and I hope Machado doesn't get involved in another incident like this one. Because while I do think he may be an idiot, I'm hopeful that he's not a vicious one.