Tensions run high when teams are in the thick of the playoff hunt. Sometimes, that can lead to frustration, even among teammates.
That was the case Saturday night as Padres third baseman Manny Machado was seen arguing in the dugout with shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. after Tatis struck out looking in the fifth inning. Tatis had argued with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi about the call, leading Machado to tell him in the dugout, “It’s not about you” and encouraging him to “go play baseball.”
After the game, Padres manager Jayce Tingler said that the incident wasn’t viewed negatively, but he wouldn’t discuss the details.
“We’re a family,” Tingler said. “There’s passion. There’s frustration. All emotions that are natural and those things happen. But it comes down to a group of men caring.”
The clash between All-Star teammates took place during a game that was critical in the Padres’ fight for their postseason lives. They lost Friday to the Cardinals, who have moved into the lead for the second wild card in the National League. San Diego was leading 2-0 at the time of Saturday’s confrontation, but St. Louis scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to win 3-2 and push the Padres down to 2 1/2 games back of the Cardinals for the second wild card.
Tatis came into the dugout after the fifth inning ended and slammed his helmet, leading Machado to come over and talk to the 22-year-old superstar.
Tingler said in his press conference that he felt Machado has done a good job as a leader this season.
“I’d say Manny being able to share his experience and be able to share past experience of coming up young in the league is a good thing,” Tingler said.
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Machado, like Tatis, came up to the majors young and immediately faced pressure to perform. He debuted with the Orioles at 19 in 2012 and was thrust into the spotlight as a spark for a playoff-contending team. He helped the Orioles finish second in the AL East, though they lost in the ALDS that year. During his first five years in the big leagues, the Orioles reached the playoffs three times, including 2014 when they won the division. In three of those seasons, Machado received votes for AL MVP.
Tatis finds himself in a similar position. San Diego is in its second playoff push since Tatis debuted, with the team having reached the postseason in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign. Tatis received votes for MVP as one of the sparkplugs of the 2020 team and is viewed by some as the leading contender for NL MVP in 2021 behind a .286/.370/.629 slash line with 39 home runs and 25 stolen bases.
It wasn’t long ago that the Padres were fighting for the NL West title. When the 2021 All-Star Game took place, the Padres were just six games back of the Giants in the division and held a 3 1/2-game lead over the Reds for the second wild card. Since the All-Star break, the Padres have gone 23-32.