Dodgers' Manny Machado is the postseason villain we need, and he should embrace it

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers won in 13 innings in the NLCS on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning for many of you) by the score of 2-1. The NLCS is now tied at two and will be going back to Milwaukee for at least Game 6. For the details on how the game unfolded, go here. We're not going to expand on that now. We're going to talk about a man painting himself clearly as the villain in this series. Love him or hate him, it's Dodgers shortstop and soon-to-be-free-agent Manny Machado

We'll get to the reasons in a second, but first, allow me an aside to show why this isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

I grew up in central Indiana as a die-hard Pacers fan. One of my favorite basketball players of all-time is Reggie Miller. Pretty much every other fan base despised Miller for his villainy and he even wrote a book entitled "I love being the enemy." As Pacers fans, my family, friends and I loved the idea that everyone else hated our guy. 

Anyone watch pro wrestling? There are "bad guys" and they are called heels. Some of them are the most charismatic and interesting characters. I've pulled for many heels through the years. 

Machado is the villain in this series and now there's no doubt about it. Everything that happened up to this point could be argued away by vehement Machado supporters, but not what happened in the 10th inning. Watch this and tell me Machado didn't kick Jesus Aguilar at first base. 

If you firmly believe he didn't do that intentionally -- whether in frustration at making an out or actively trying to harm Aguilar -- you are fooling yourself. He looked down right at the moment and swerved in to the inside part of the bag. That's dirty and there's no place for it. Machado's post-game comments on the matter show someone without remorse: 

"Why?" Machado asked when he was pressed as to what happened. "You saw the replay, probably, I was trying to get over him and hit his foot. If that's dirty, that's dirty, I don't know, call it what you want."

He was told the Brewers, Travis Shaw and Christian Yelich were specifically critical, called the play dirty. The reply? Truly a villain. 

"If that's their comments, that's their comments, I can't do nothing about that," he said. 

Doing something like Machado did and refusing to apologize or even acknowledge it looked bad is the stuff of villains. 

It's also the last piece of the puzzle that confirms we were always headed in this direction. 

  • Machado didn't run out a groundball during Game 2. I don't believe this in and of itself is worthy of calling him a villain. In fact, I barely cared at the time. Many people get really angry about this, especially since he's likely to get a gargantuan contract in free agency this coming offseason. 
  • Machado had two questionable slides into second base in Game 3, the second one a clear violation of the rule. He reached out to grab Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia. On the first one, it looks like he hit the crotch of Arcia, though I don't believe that was intentional. Still, shortstop on shortstop crime is the behavior of a villain. 
  • Next up, in an interview with Ken Rosenthal, he scoffed at the notion of hustle and said it's not his cup of tea. He also said he's not going to change. He really came off like he doesn't care that a large chunk of the MLB fan base is offended by players not hustling. Villainy! 
  • On that front, here's a fun wrinkle that comes with having a villain. After Game 4, Brewers manager Craig Counsell was asked if Machado was just playing too hard and that's why he clipped Aguilar. Counsell closed his answer with, "I don't think he's playing all that hard." Shots fired! 
  • This wasn't egregious, but we're painting a complete picture here. Machado tried to call time late and it wasn't granted. He gave up on the pitch anyway and then berated the umpire after striking out looking: 

Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes head already started his windup and the umpire isn't required to grant time. Machado knows this and still went in on the umpire. 

And then we have the incident at first base with Aguilar. He did it on purpose. He didn't apologize at the time and instead was defiant when approached by Aguilar. 

Add it all up and we've got an obvious villain in this series. It's a series that pits a team from the second-largest MLB market against the smallest. It's a team that's been to the playoffs six straight years and the NLCS three straight times against a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2011. It's pretty clear cut, no? Manny Machado is the villain here. He, and Dodgers fans alike, might as well embrace that image and have fun with it. 

Stuff we could see the rest of the way to fully cement this: Obvious on-camera trash talk, taunting the Brewers' dugout openly after a good play, staring baserunners down when he's at short and one is on second and then laughing if they say something. 

Also, it looks like Aguilar and Machado made up the next time they met at first and we don't need that, Manny. Whatever commentary happened at second in the 13th inning after the Brewers tried to pick him off, yeah, we'll take more of that. 

Machado scored the winning run in a close play at home plate. I'd have loved to see him do a DX-level midsection chop toward the Brewers dugout after that. He's already the villain, so having fun with it and going full heel is the play here. 

I would also request no more dirty plays. That was off-the-charts bush league. Let's stick with the fun villainy. That's entertaining and we watch baseball to be entertained. It can't hurt for fans of other teams to have someone to root against, either. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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