The national hype machine is a powerful creature.
This mighty, multi-tentacled beast comes fully armed with mass media snipers that use colorful conversation, vividly penned words and a huge army of marketing wizards to describe unworldly talent of 19- and 20-year-old baseball prospects.
The hype machine is a whisper, similar to the one in the movie Field of Dreams that told Ray Kinsella, “If you build it, they will come.”
But in the case of hot MLB prospects, the hype machine whispers to fans, “If we hype him, you will come.”
And true to form, many fans do.
Earlier this season with Bryce Harper, the national hype machine revved up with the mission of turning the attention of baseball fans toward this teenage phenom.
So what if countless teens, whether in the Olympics or in the military, have achieved heroic feats throughout American history?
To the media, Harper was a miracle in motion—an electrifying teenage speedster who would transform the game of baseball as we knew it.
Meantime, Mike Trout, another highly-touted prospect, took a backseat to Harper. At least until Trout lit the world on fire with unreal all-around play.
Now that Harper is having a tough go of it, the national hype machine has moved west.
But Trout, who is still batting .340, has tailed off a bit lately with an LA Angels team that has struggled the past few weeks. Losers of seven of their past 10 games, the Angels look to be fading fast in an AL West division that features the powerful Texas Rangers and the surprising Oakland Athletics.
It would not surprise me one ounce if, as Trout and the Angels continue to fade, the national hype machine zooms eastward towards a city that has been all but ignored nationally since the start of the 2012 season.
This city is Baltimore, home of the resurgent Orioles.
But to the good old hype machine, it is the new home to 20-year-old phenom infielder Manny Machado.
So what if Baltimore has had a magical season despite play that defies logic?
So what if Buck Showalter has been the super-glue that has held this team of unproven youngsters and MLB journeymen together?
So what if true Orioles fans in the Baltimore area have smelled the scent of change emanating from 333 West Camden Street since May?
All this has meant nothing to the national media—until now.
Now, it is no surprise Machado has taken baseball by storm since making his big league debut Thursday against the Kansas City Royals.
In four games, Machado is batting .375 with three home runs and seven RBI. Two of Machado’s homers came during Friday’s 7-1 win over the Royals. Machado delivered a critical shot in Sunday’s 5-3 win over Kansas City as well.
Equally important, Machado has played consistent defense at third base, which is something Baltimore has needed desperately.
That said, here is where things may become a bit stomach-churning for Orioles fans.
As revealed in my recent breakdown of the AL wild-card race, the Orioles have just as good a shot at making the playoffs as the other five AL teams in contention.
Should the Orioles continue to prove themselves, the hype machine will move to Baltimore, pretending it has supported this team the entire season, although everyone knows nobody has paid a lick of attention to this team until recently.
But this may not stop the national hype machine from using Machado to draw ratings, just like it did with Harper and Trout. You might even see national TV promos that say, “Manny Machado leads the upstart Orioles against the (fill in team here).”
Meantime, Nick Markakis, who has been with this team through the worst of times, says: “What about me?”
No fault of Machado's—this hype machine has become a sad part of our current sports landscape. While hyping players is by no means new, using Machado to deploy the hype machine to Baltimore may be a big kick in the face to Orioles fans who watched this team excel without this gifted player.
The bottom line is, there is more to the Orioles' success than Machado’s arrival, and the national media needs to recognize that going forward.
One prospect's arrival cannot erase a plethora of deep-seeded issues this once-loyal fanbase has dealt with from ownership for the last two decades.
Frankly, this magical season is but one step forward in returning this once-proud baseball team to prominence.
Other Baltimore Orioles Articles You May Enjoy:
Baltimore Orioles: This is Birdland, Damn It
What O’s Can Do Now To Succeed in 2013
Showalter Deserves AL Manager of the Year
O's Legends Incomplete Without Boog Powell
Miguel Gonzalez Fast Becoming Road Warrior