"The NCAA makes its own rules and can do what it wants to do"

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James Paxton is a left-handed pitcher for the University of Kentucky. He was taken with the 37th overall pick by the Blue Jays in the draft last summer. He decided that he’d rather return for his senior year, however, and did so.

Beginning in October, the NCAA started contacting UK about Paxton. It’s still unclear what about, but they wanted to talk with him, and right now most signs point to something to do with the draft. Maybe he talked to an agent. Who knows? UK wouldn’t tell Paxton what it was about. All they’d do was to hint that (a) it was something involving Paxton’s eligibility; (b) that he couldn’t tell his parents or his lawyer about the interview, nor could they participate; and (c) if he didn’t participate, he was going to be suspended. Heck, maybe he’d be suspended even if he did participate.

Yeah, that’s a lawsuit. Right now it just involves UK, but it will likely involve the NCAA itself eventually, because it appears as though that august institution is once again acting as a law unto itself.

How so: Paxton’s lawyer — the one he was consulting with back in October, not the one who filed the lawsuit — says in an affidavit that the UK athletic director told him that “the NCAA made its own rules and could do whatever it wanted,” and that the NCAA investigator “had [Paxton’s] life in his hands.” The picture that is painted by the suit (which you can view here) is that the NCAA was putting the screws to UK, who in turn put the screws to Paxton. In a lot of ways UK was probably caught in the middle, being threatened by the NCAA with forfeited games and sanctions and stuff if they didn’t treat a student athlete like he was a character in a Kafka novel.

Looming over all of this is the now-settled Andrew Oliver lawsuit from earlier this year. You’ll recall that case as the one in which the Oklahoma State pitcher sued the
NCAA — and got a lot of favorable rulings before the NCAA paid him off — claiming that its rules against players consulting with agents and lawyers were, you know, super illegal.

But the most notable thing about that case was not the rule itself — which is technically back on the books, just waiting to be shot down again — but the NCAA’s utter arrogance throughout the case. They had contempt motions filed against them and, even when the rule was enjoined by the trial judge, they kept sending out letters to students threatening them with that very rule.  You know, acting like it made its own rules and could do whatever it wanted.

Know this much: for this lawsuit, Paxton has the same lawyer that Andy Oliver had. His email address has the word “Piranha” in it.  In other words: get ready to get creamed again, NCAA.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.