Manny Machado has stepped into trouble again, causing at least one opponent to call him "a dirty player."
Both benches cleared after the Los Angeles Dodgers' star shortstop clipped the back leg of Milwaukee first baseman Jesus Aguilar while running out his groundout Tuesday night in the 10th inning of Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.
Aguilar left his foot on the base for a moment after Machado was already out, and the star shortstop appeared to show his displeasure by bringing his left foot forward and kicking Aguilar on the back of the leg.
One of the @Brewers players told me that while it was good to hear Manny Machado apologized to Jesus Aguilar, Machado needs to realize that he is known as a dirty ball player who needs to clean up his reputation.
— Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) October 17, 2018
The incident immediately took the top spot on the growing list of Machado's debatable decisions in baseball ethics.
"He's a player that has a history of those types of incidents," Milwaukee slugger Christian Yelich said. "One time is an accident. Repeated over and over and over again, you're just a dirty player. It's a dirty play by a dirty player, and that's what it is. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, but you can't respect someone who plays the game like that."
Aguilar wasn't hurt, but he was angry. Dodgers first base coach George Lombard joined the discussion before players spilled onto the field from both benches and bullpens.
"I was trying to get over him and hit his foot," Machado said. "If that's dirty, that's dirty. I don't know. Call it what you want."
Nothing happened beyond that spirited argument, and the two principals made up after Machado singled in the 13th inning. He briefly hugged Aguilar while they stood together at first base.
"We're family. Things happen," said Machado, who scored the winning run moments later. "Everything that happens on the field stays on the field. He's a great guy. We go way back since the minor leagues. So it's just a friendly game, go out, try and compete here. We're trying to win. He's trying to do whatever he can to help his team over there, and we're doing the same over here."
The rest of the Brewers didn't appear to be quite as forgiving. Infielder Travis Shaw also called it dirty, and Yelich followed up his postgame criticism of Machado by yelling a profane epithet as he walked away from his locker.
"The play at first today is a pretty dirty play," Shaw said. "It's not a mistake. You don't kick somebody like that on accident. You can say it wasn't on purpose, this and that, but it's a dirty play.
Just a few weeks before the 26-year-old Machado likely hits the open market as one of the most desirable free agents in baseball, the big-hitting shortstop has become the latest star to tread the well-worn line between fierce competitors and dirty players.
The four-time All-Star also caused controversy Monday in Game 3 with two hard slides into second base while shortstop Orlando Arcia attempted to turn double plays. The second one resulted in a double play for the Brewers after video review.
"It's a beauty pageant," Alex Rodriguez said on Fox Sports' postgame show. "You have 30 owners (who) all want you right now. The whole world is watching baseball. You don't want four, five owners to sit around and say, `Hey, did you see what Manny did? Did you see that? Oh, yeah, yeah, we're out. We like him, but now we're out.' You're losing tens of millions of dollars by the second if that becomes the narrative."
Machado already had drawn the ire of ex-players and old-school baseball men from Jim Palmer to Eric Byrnes with his occasional lack of hustle. While Machado has been criticized for not running out grounders and making hustle plays over the years, he also showed he's got plenty of pep when properly motivated: He sprinted from second to home on Cody Bellinger's two-out single in the 13th, sticking out his left hand to touch home plate as he beat Yelich's throw to the plate and slid past Erik Kratz's tag.
Machado didn't run out a grounder in Game 2 of the NLCS, adding to the negative attention in this series. In an interview with Fox Sports 1 that aired before Game 4, he acknowledged there was "no excuse" for not making more effort -- but also displayed an attitude that won't endear him to the old school.
"I'm not the type of player that's going to be Johnny Hustle and run down the line and slide to first base," Machado said. "That's just not my personality. That's not my cup of tea. That's not who I am."
Machado attracted disdain early in the 2017 season with a hard slide in Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Machado got his spikes into Pedroia's left ankle and knee as he slid over the base, and his Orioles had a testy relationship with the Red Sox for the rest of the season.
The Dodgers acquired Machado from Baltimore this season for their playoff push, and to replace injured shortstop Corey Seager. Machado had 37 homers and 107 RBIs in the regular season, and he batted .242 in the first eight games of the postseason.
After he got two hits in Game 3, Machado's frustration at the plate also probably played a role in his mood in Game 4. His groundout dropped him to 0 for 5 as the Dodgers' cleanup hitter.