BOSTON — The road certainly won’t get any easier for Manny Machado with Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway Park. Consider it good training if he’s ever fitted for pinstripes, as everyone assumes will happen after this month.
Machado was relentlessly booed at Miller Park last weekend during NLCS Games 6 and 7, the angry residue after he kicked Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar at Dodger Stadium in Game 4. Upon hearing the jeers, Machado waved his arms on occasion, seemingly urging the crowd to pump up the volume.
Machado has an even more villainous history at Fenway Park, stemming from his seven years playing for the Orioles in the AL East. He took that to another level with his spiking of the beloved Dustin Pedroia last season, a slide that escalated into a beanball war that had Red Sox pitchers — including Chris Sale — using Machado for target practice.
When asked Monday how he might be greeted at Fenway, Machado persistently deflected the questions as if he were fouling off nasty pitches. He clearly didn’t want to be drawn into a war of words that could provoke what should be an already aggressive crowd.
“I’m here to win a World Series ring,” Machado said.
That was basically the same answer, or a variation of it, that he leaned on for every question that veered into non-baseball territory, such as the perception of him as a villain or anything that remotely touched on his pending free agency.
“We’re talking about the World Series, man,” Machado said at one point. “Ask me about the World Series.”
He did get plenty of those questions, too. Machado was excited to be here with the Dodgers, his adopted team since the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. He also mentioned that he received more than 100 texts from his former Orioles teammates, congratulating him on finally getting to the Fall Classic.
Through it all, Machado pleasantly fielded every question, staying right to the end of the mandated 45-minute session for media availability.
He quickly has evolved into an October lightning rod — much like his idol, Alex Rodriguez — even if Sale insists the animosity between the Sox and Machado won’t be rekindled in this Series.
“Not at all,” Sale said. “We have bigger things to worry about now, on both sides. We’re dedicated to winning the World Series and bringing a championship to our city. We’re not worried about any individual player.”