When the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers take the field Tuesday night at Fenway Park, it will be the first time the two franchises have met in the World Series since 1916.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some recent history between the players on the field.
In July, the Dodgers traded to acquire All-Star shortstop Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles. During his time in the American League East, Machado made no friends at Fenway Park.
It all started with a controversial slide through second base that injured Dustin Pedroia (who subsequently missed all but three games this season due to knee surgery) during an April 2017 game in Baltimore. While Machado didn’t appear intent on injuring the Red Sox second baseman, reliever Matt Barnes was ejected and suspended four games for nearly hitting the Orioles shortstop in the head with a fastball two games later. After that game, Pedroia called Barnes’s apparent retaliation a “mishandled situation.”
When the Orioles visited Fenway Park a week later, Machado hit a laser home run into the Green Monster seats and made sure to take his time around the bases. In his first at-bat the following game, he was nearly hit with a 97 mph fastball courtesy of Chris Sale. In an outraged rant after the game, Machado said he lost all respect for the Red Sox.
“I had no intention on hurting anybody and I’m still paying; I’m still trying to get thrown at,” he said at the time. “I got thrown at my [expletive] head. I got [expletive] thrown at everywhere. It’s [expletive] [nonsense]. I’ve lost my respect for that organization, for that coaching staff, for everyone over there.”
Machado has tried to downplay his fraught past with the Red Sox as “old history” ahead of the start of the World Series this week. But some members of the Red Sox haven’t forgotten.
“I have a lot of respect for him as a player; some of the other stuff I think is a bit much, but you know, a guy is who he is,” Barnes told The New York Times.
In an interview with The Eagle-Tribune, the 28-year-old reliever said the team had moved on from Machado’s slide — sort of.
“You’re talking about a play in which Pedey still hasn’t played since then, really,” he said. “When you take out a captain, a leader of a team, that’s not going to sit well with anybody. It kind of is what it is. You move on. I don’t see anything happening, I really don’t, but it doesn’t mean that we’ve forgotten about it.”
Despite those festering antipathies, Barnes, whose near-beaning of Machado came during a 6-0 game in April, underscored that the high-stakes October series was no place for carrying out any further revenge on the field.
“It definitely lingered a little bit for one reason or another, but if you do something foolish in a game that means this much and a series that means this much, and it costs you a game and it costs you a series, then you look like a fool,” he told the Times.
Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello also took a veiled jab at Machado’s playing style.
“Our guys do a pretty damn good job of playing the game the right way,” Porcello told the Times. “I’d rather watch that.”
Machado didn’t help his reputation during the National League Championship Series, during which he was fined for kicking Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar while running out a ground ball. The incident incited Brewers star outfielder Christian Yelich to call Machado “just a dirty player.” That reputation has even prompted some concerns about potentially playing Mookie Betts at second base to make room for J.D. Martinez in the outfield when the Red Sox play at the Dodgers.
Sale, the starter for Game 1, says the Red Sox have “bigger things to worry about.”
“We’re dedicated to winning this World Series,” he told The Boston Globe, declining to give his opinion on Machado.
Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce, who played with Machado for several years on the Orioles, even vouched for the 26-year-old shortstop and said the “dirty player” reputation is “unfair.”
“I know Manny personally, he’s one of my favorite people of all time – I still have a relationship with him, I still root for him,” Pearce told reporters Monday, according to the Boston Herald. “It’s unfortunate everything that’s going on with him because for me personally, that’s not the type of guy he is. I hope he turns it around and maybe make everybody forget about what’s going on.”
Pearce said there seems to be a “disconnect” between Machado on and off the field.
“I really don’t know what’s going on inside his head, but he’s still one of my favorite guys,” he said.
Perhaps the Red Sox player with the most reason to hold a grudge against Machado, Pedroia also reiterated that he isn’t mad at Machado. According to The Athletic, the 35-year-old second baseman — who is out for the season as he rehabs his knee, which has plagued him since 2016 — was peppered with questions about the Dodgers shortstop Monday.
“What is this, high school?” he said. “I’m a grown-ass man, dude. Come on. I’m just working hard to get healthy.”
Pedroia mostly declined to answer questions about Machado. However, he did suggest that the slide 18 months ago was a contributing factor in his absence this year, according to the Times.
“It didn’t help — I’ll tell you that,” Pedroia said.