GLENDALE, Ariz. — There’s ridiculousness, and then there’s the exercise that Manny Machado is putting the Chicago media through.
We don’t know if the superstar free agent will choose the White Sox, but we do know he’s the only story that matters as spring training gets underway here. It’s why we could have been interviewing new backup second baseman Elon Musk on Wednesday and we’d have asked him if he had any connection, no matter how thin, with Machado.
Poor Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay. They are Machado’s brother-in-law and good friend, respectively. They are also treed bears. Both Sox players have been left to fend off questions about which team Manny will choose (don’t know), when he’s going to make his decision (don’t know) and, if Manny were ice cream, what flavor would he be.
We’ll look anywhere for clues. On Tuesday, Rawlings tweeted photos of Machado’s gloves for 2019. They’re black and white. Hey, wait, those are the Sox’ colors!
“Is the black and white a sign?” Rawlings tweeted.
The answer for a true Sox believer: The Pope — Catholic, right?
For general manager Rick Hahn, it’s a little more complicated.
“I like the color scheme of black and white — is he signing with the Raiders?” Hahn said, laughing. “Look, we try to be disciplined in terms of our focus. We try not to spend too much time trolling around Instagram looking for clues. We certainly don’t want to spend any time negotiating through the media or talking about where things sit publicly until there’s some finality.”
This is not the good kind of suspense. This is suspense brought on by a cracked system, by too few owners willing to shell out big money to stars. Machado already should be in camp somewhere, with cash sticking out of his pockets. So should Bryce Harper. But free agency is constipated.
So everybody waits. Waiting is not a good thing in this day and age. It leads to idle fingers. There was a Twitter rumor Tuesday that the Sox had hired extra security for a news conference in Chicago. There were a few problems with the “report,” as it related to Machado. With most of the reporters who cover the team camped out at the Sox’ facilities in Arizona, who would attend the news conference 1,700 miles away? And how would Hahn, also in Arizona, introduce Machado? Via videoconferencing?
Hahn has a high threshold when it comes to commenting on potential trades.
“Unless there’s a Twitter report from wetbutt23, I’ll probably just stay quiet on it,” he said.
Wetbutt23, a name I’ve now typed twice in this column after living life never envisioning I would, is the name of the Reddit user who helped break the news of the 2017 trade that sent Sox pitcher Jose Quintana to the Cubs for four prospects.
I don’t know how rumors start, but let me take a stab at it. At the Sox’ spring training facility, Alonso’s locker is next to Jay’s. On the other side of Jay’s locker is an open locker. THERE’S AN OPEN LOCKER NEXT TO THE LOCKER OF ONE OF MANNY MACHADO’S BEST FRIENDS! You can see where I’m going with this.
If you can’t see it, it’s because you know that teams often give veterans an extra locker. Jay is heading into his 10th season. That bit of context doesn’t figure to stop somebody from peering into that empty locker, seeing Machado and tweeting about it.
Reporters asked Alonso six questions Wednesday before he was asked about Machado, who is married to Alonso’s sister. There were nine questions to Jay before the first Manny query came his way. That’s superhuman restraint.
Is there something Machado would add to the Sox that their fans don’t know about?
“An absolute stud,” Jay said.
Is Alonso on the edge of his seat along with everyone else, waiting to see what Machado is going to do?
“No,” he said. “I have my breakfast, I have my lunch, and I get ready to play. I think that’s all going to get taken care of. We’ll just see when it happens.”
The “when it happens” part is kind of big. It could be tomorrow. It could be two weeks from now. It could be in a month, which would kill off a decent number of Sox fans who have a major emotional investment in Machado’s decision.
The suspense isn’t killing Sox players, at least outwardly, but they’re certainly interested in a situation that could profoundly affect the franchise.
“He’s going to do what’s best for him,” new Sox catcher James McCann said. “You can’t really daydream and have your heart broken.”
McCann, a former Tiger, has been hearing the Machado-to-Chicago talk for months.
“It’s been something I’ve been following all offseason, even before I was with the White Sox, being in the AL Central, thinking, ‘Man, now I’ve got to worry about calling a game against Machado,’ ” he said. “Hopefully, he does come here. That would be a huge addition to this team and this lineup. We’ll see what happens.”
Yes, but when?
Manny, please. Make this stop.