2016 will be Manny Machado’s fourth full year in the Major Leagues, and fifth season overall, after being called up to the Orioles midway through 2012, and helping turn the O’s season (and really the franchise as a whole) around. Manny’s already proven he’s among the league’s elite fielders, as he holds two Gold Gloves, along with a Platinum Glove, and has quickly become one of the game’s best hitters.
In Baltimore, saying an infielder is the next Cal Ripken is kind of like saying a linebacker is the next Ray Lewis. You just can’t say it, and up until now, it’s never been true.
And of course, this is all dependent on the Orioles being able to retain Machado when he is eligible for free agency. But if the Orioles care about their future at all, and if they care about not having their entire fan base turn on them, they’ll get the deal done.
And no, nothing that I’m about to say has anything to do with the streak, or number of consecutive games played.
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, Cal Ripken, Jr. was the pride of Baltimore. And in the 2010-2020 generation, Manny is, and will continue to be, the pride of Baltimore. And I understand that Cal was a shortstop who moved to third, and Manny has started as a third baseman who will likely move to short. But as far as being all around great players, the two are fairly comparable. And most importantly, I’m comparing the two not only on skill, but as being “face of the franchise” guys, the best players on their teams, the most loved players in their city, and being the players that define their generation.
Here are Cal’s first five seasons in the MLB, per Baseball Reference:
And here are Manny’s, also per Baseball Reference:
If you compare these stats through four-plus seasons, you’d take Cal’s all day. Cal was the model of consistency. He was a lock to hit just north of 25 homers, drive in somewhere from 85-100 runs, and hit for a borderline .300 average. And so far, Manny Machado has yet to drive in 100 runs or hit for a .300 average in his career (2014 was cut short due to injury). But you have to look a little deeper than just the numbers on the surface.
Manny hit more doubles in his first full season in the big leagues than Cal ever hit in a season. And every expert everywhere said that as soon as Manny’s body developed a little more, those doubles would turn into homers. And they were right. Last year Manny hit a career high 35 homers, a number that Cal also never reached. And he did it as the lead off hitter, which explains only having 81 RBIs.
Through 14 games so far in 2016, Manny has already hit 5 home runs, putting him on pace to hit 57 bombs this year. Clearly this won’t happen, but it just goes to show that Manny won’t go away.
Cal also never stole more that 6 bases in a season. On a team who doesn’t run, Manny stole 20 bags last year.
Cal was the best defender of the 80’s, and Manny Machado is now the best defender in his generation. There’s no shortage of highlight reel plays that these two have put together.
I’m not sitting here arguing that Manny has achieved more than Cal. But what I am arguing is that Manny has the potential to put up similar stat lines to Cal, except I believe on a year to year basis they will be better. More homers per year, similar average, and more runs driven in as he moves down the lineup. The bigger question is will Manny be able to keep it up for 15 years.
I think he can.
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 2, 2015
The signs are all there that Manny Machado is already one of the game’s best players, and is only getting better. By the end of this year, Manny will be looked at with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper as the best one’s doing it. And I think that will last for another decade. Manny is here to stay, just as Cal was here to stay in the 80’s and 90’s. Clearly Cal was one of the game’s greatest players of all time. He was great, but most importantly, he was consistently great for a long period of time. Obviously, Manny is too young in his career for anyone to be able to say that about him. And only time will tell. But if you ask me, it will happen. And I know it’s early, but when his career is over, I believe Manny Machado is a Hall Of Famer- the Orioles’ first since Cal.