Baseball Ethics Dunce: San Diego Padres Third Baseman Manny Machado


This isn’t so much about baseball ethics as values, and how our sports “heroes” corrupt ours.

I suppose I am obligated to confess that I detest Manny Machado. I haven’t watched him much since he moved to San Diego, but when he was with the Baltimore Orioles, he was one of the dirtiest players I’ve ever seen. He also wrecked the career of Dustin Pedroia, the star Red Sox second baseman whose values are the direct opposite of Machado’s, with an illegal slide.

Machado just announced that he plans on opting out of the remainder of his contract following the 2023 season, as the terms of his current deal allows. When Machado signed his current 10-year, $300 million agreement with San Diego ahead of the 2019 season, it was among the top three player contracts in MLB history. Now, however, 30 million dollars a year isn’t enough for Manny. You see, a few high-profile free agents have signed for more this off season, so this means, according to player agents’ Bizarro World logic, that Manny is being underpaid.

I have heard many sports pundits agree. His “value” is more, since he can get more on the open market (I have no doubt that this is true, though it shouldn’t be), so it only makes sense that Machado should leave $150 million of his current contract on the table and sign with the highest bidder.

It makes sense only one way: if the single thing Machado deems as important is how much money he makes. Not his lifestyle, not his supporters, not the game he plays or the city he plays it for, not his team mates or the team he will have played for in five seasons when the ’23 season is finished. Only the number of dollars in his paycheck.

Manny is 31, and has made more than 142 million dollars. He is not a philanthropist (like former tennis star Andre Agassi); he’s not building any pyramids or museums. There is literally nothing Machado can’t do with a paltry 30 million a year that he could do with 40 million a year. All a larger contract does is feed his ego and enrich his agent, which is a large part of the problem.

A good and ethical agent would say, “Manny, where do you want to live and play baseball? If it’s San Diego, then keep your contract and stay here. The Padres won’t be able to afford you if you want more, you’ll make the team weaker, the fans will decide you’re a jerk, and you will literally gain nothing and lose a lot by going somewhere else. You have enough money: hell, you can’t spend what you’ve got.”

Maybe his agent did say that. But Manny is a jerk, so he didn’t listen.

The excuse players typically use to deflect accusations of unhinged greed (gee, ya think?) is that they are seeking more money “for my kids.” Manny has one kid, and Marie Osmond would like a word. Unless Manny has been heating his six homes (I’m guessing now) by burning cash, I’d say his son’s financial security is assured.

Admittedly, I don’t comprehend people like Machado. I have never chosen a career path, taken a job or a position, or abandoned an organization for money in my entire life. True, I am likely to end my days living in a cardboard box. Still, there are more important things; being an ethicist commands that I believe that. I do not believe that it is possible to be an ethical human being and to value the accumulation of riches above all else.

17 thoughts on “Baseball Ethics Dunce: San Diego Padres Third Baseman Manny Machado

  1. A great man once asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the world, but lose his soul?” An ethical agent would have asked that question, but unfortunately, Machado’s agent gets a percentage of whatever he gets his client, so I’m guessing the agent is doubly behind Machado walking away from his current contract early.

    The love of money has truly become the root of all evil.

  2. As always, two words: Scott Boras. Or, as Joel points out above, one word: agents.

    Honestly, I don’t see the point in maligning players for getting the highest salary possible. Professional baseball is a business. In what business are participants expected to take less for their goods or services that whatever the market will bear? None. No one’s in it for the love of the game. Certainly not the owners. Fans who expect anything else to govern the business other than the profit motive are deluding themselves. Honestly, I get a kick out of the sport of the business of professional sports (including big time college sports). The things owners (and college coaches and ADs and presidents) do and say are infinitely amusing. For example, the NBA owners just drove Robert Sarver out of his group’s ownership of the Phoenix Suns basketball franchise. He bought the team for the preposterous amount of 600 million USD about twenty years ago and was “forced” to sell the team for the tidy sum of four billion dollars! For a small market team in a state with around 8 million people and virtually no national fanbase. Boy, they sure punished Robert. “”Bad boy, Robert. I can just hear him saying to his previously fellow owners, “Don’t throw me in the briar patch, boys!” And the other owners now have a new comp to take to their bankers to increase their lines of credit and long-term financing. Yippee!

    And my poor son was furious for twenty years that Robert Sarver was a “bad” owner. The new guy that has to service four billion dollars of debt is going to spend wildly to satisfy loyal fans like OB, Jr? Fat chance. Looking back, it was unethical of yours truly to expose him to sports and make him a sports fan. But I was too young and didn’t know better.

    • OB
      I have no problem with people trying to maximize their income but if you sign a contract the ethical thing to do is honor that contract. If someone wants to roll the dice and take a year to year contract they can do so but when you sign a five year deal the payer is risking that you will be productive throughout the term. If you are not and wind up not contributing will the payer be able to say I’m not paying? The answer is no.
      Contracts are the written equivalent of a persons bond. Break the contract and you prove to others you are not to be trusted.

      • But Chris, isn’t Machado simply opting out pursuant to the terms of the contract? He’s not breaking his contract or failing to honor his word. If the contract didn’t provide him the ability to opt of certain years, the Padres would sue to enforce the deal, right?

          • Oh, he had the right to opt out all right. There’s no question about that. But of course, having the right to do something doesn’t make it right. he bargained for that right: the Pads would have had to pay him more not to have it.

            • I don’t think we disagree. That’s why I said he might not be honoring the spirit of the contract.

              But, think about it from the agent’s perspective: Isn’t the agent obligated to get him the best deal for his client, the athlete? Wouldn’t that be a breach of his duty to the client if he didn’t get that deal?


              • He’s obligated to give advice that is in the best interests of the client, not just the financial interest. Agents negotiate what positions a player wants to play, if that’s important to his career goals, for example. An agent who, for example, got a deal with a team that already had an established star as its catcher would be unethical to recommend a deal to an aspiring starting catcher where the catcher would b second string…even if the offer was for more money than other teams’.

        • If the terms gives him the right to opt out then I have no issue. I thought he was just going to sit out the season and forego payment.

          This is not a case of one side being taken advantage of. If the Padres were foolish enough to give a person an escape clause without getting one for themselves then too bad.

          My comment was simply that people need to honor their commitments irrespective if they would be better off if they did not.

          • I had a rule when I was artistic director: if someone had agreed to accept a role in another show but auditioned for one of mine and was cast, I would not let them quit the other show. I told them that they should not have auditioned for us. I didn’t care if they hadn’t signed a contract, or that we were offering more money. And any actor who quit one of my shows to accept a better offer would never be allowed to audition for TACT again.

            They had every right to quit prior to signing a contract. It was still unethical to do so.

  3. A couple of thoughts on this post from the vantage point of a 20-year-plus former National Football League Players’ Association agent.

    Most of the younger professional athletes with whom I interacted were fixated solely on money as a marker of professional success. This was especially true for players who came from poor or underprivileged backgrounds where financial success was almost unheard of and any affection directed their way tended to be purely mercenary. This is particularly true of those athletes who were identified as potential superstars early on in middle and high school. Those kids were surrounded by peers, adults, and an army of hangers-on who hoped to make some type of claim in the event the athlete strikes it rich. The culture surrounding many of these future superstars instructs them that without money, they have no respect, few friendships, and little access to members of the opposite sex. In other words, these players come into the professional leagues with a well-developed sense that money is virtually the only way they can define themselves as a success.

    This attitude usually starts to change as the player matures after several years in the leagues. He interacts with similarly situated peers, many of whom are older, and understand how fleeting is the fame and how phony are the friendships and romantic relationships that are contingent on his paycheck. At some point, several of my clients came to understand that their professional and personal success involved more than simply being the biggest contract number, as they started to build a network of other players, coaches, sportscasters, and, in unusual cases, former teachers or professors and work toward a post-playing career.
    But, as George Costanza frequently said, “ you just can’t help some people.” I had other clients who never got beyond the numbers game and remained unable or unwilling to assess the intangibles that really are the rewards of an athletic career. For those folks, I simply worked to get the best number that I could while trying to inject some sense of reality into their worldview.

    There are other factors at work in these situations, as well. My father was an NFL coach from the mid-60s through the early 90s and I had an inside view on how the relationship between the players and their communities changed dramatically as more money moved into professional sports. NFL players were not particularly well-paid through the first two decades of my father’s NFL coaching career. Every one of them had to have some kind of backup employment in the offseason to make ends meet. As a result, players had to integrate Into their communities with jobs and careers that in many cases proved to be more lucrative than football. Considerations of family stability, fan loyalty, and team camaraderie are much more important when you don’t have the financial security to walk away and do nothing else to make a living.

    Finally, do not discount the influence of the agent in these negotiations. The only effective marketing tool for professional sports agents is public knowledge of the value of the contracts they negotiate for their clients. The agent will push the player to demand the biggest contract possible, and then push the player to renegotiate if the market changes. An agent who is not doing this consistently will very quickly find himself or herself being undercut by other agents who will reach out to the client to say that money is still on the table that should be in the player’s pocket.

    I’m sure there are elements of all of these factors in Machado’s situation.

    • I was surprised to see Manny is an American and was raised in Hialeah, Florida. He is of Dominican heritage. I assumed he was Dominican. Nonetheless, I’m going to assume he’s essentially pretty rootless, like the rest of the Dominican MLB players. Like most MLB players, they buy a mansion in the town they’re contracted to, and then probably maintain a mansion in Miami or LA and then have a compound in the DR. In so many ways, they’re strangers in a strange land, making lots of money and sending it home. They’re also at the pinnacle of a Hispanic and Carribean culture in which winner takes all and he who dies with the most toys wins.

      • And I second your observation about agent self-advertising. Everything they do is aimed at getting more players under contract. I can’t see being able to do that by counseling a client to take less. It’s all about the Benjamins. That’s how you keep score.

  4. In the honest pursuit of the career I chose, making a lot of money was never an option. I reconciled myself to that fact early on, and concentrated on living within my means and having a rich life rather than a rich lifestyle. The older I get, the less I need or want to acquire “stuff.”Even today I sometimes joke about buying this or that extravagance if I should win the lottery (which is highly unlikely since I never play). My wife will remark, “Who are you kidding, you would give it all away before you ever bought anything like that for yourself.” She knows me well.

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