Give the Braves a chance, OK?

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Like I said yesterday, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the Braves did a good job in the Vazquez trade. There are many potential sliver linings to what some are unfairly calling the blackest of clouds, but Atlanta clearly didn’t get anything approaching equal value for a pitcher of Vazquez’s caliber. Melky Cabrera is clearly not going to make the difference in Atlanta. The Yankees won this trade, no doubt.

But while it’s one thing to call the Braves the loser of yesterday’s trade, it’s another thing altogether to use that trade as a blanket indictment of the Braves, their ownership and their desire to win baseball games.  That’s what Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus did in his column yesterday (sorry; most of it is registration-only), and he said so in no uncertain terms:

The Braves made themselves worse entirely so that Liberty Media
wouldn’t possibly have to use the red font in its spreadsheets. Vazquez makes
$11.5 million in 2010, Cabrera will make about $4 million, maybe a little less
(I’m guessing here, because of Cabrera’s arbitration eligibility). That’s $7.5
million in Liberty’s pockets, on top of the $7.5 million they saved on Soriano,
for $15 million saved in two trades that make the team worse by maybe four
games, maybe more, in 2010. Not that four wins is pretty much the difference in
making the playoffs and not in the NL just about every season, and not that
Liberty Media cares. They care that the Braves have positive cashflow, and
everything else is irrelevant.

I’ve been reading Joe Sheehan for years, and I gotta tell ya, I was pretty sure before yesterday that he knew that the rosters didn’t freeze and the season didn’t start on December 23rd. I was pretty sure he knew that when a team frees up salary in a trade, they have more than eight hours to spend it on other players before they can be accused of pocketing the money and pissing on the hopes of the fans. I was pretty sure that he knew that it was prudent for a team that has a surplus in one area to trade some of it away in order to get players (or money to acquire players) that addressed a deficit in another area.

Which, by the way, is what the Braves have shown every intention of doing. As Braves GM Frank Wren said yesterday, the team is going to use the $8 million or so that they have freed up as a result of dealing Vazquez to pursue a bat. I don’t know whose bat. And heck, maybe Wren will make a bad choice in the bat he gets. But the fact is that they had six starters and no first baseman or left fielder when we all woke up yesterday. If they
break camp with five starters and a first basemen and/or a left
fielder, they will have made the team better, even if the team they have is sub-optimal.

Look, I am just as frustrated at Liberty Media’s ownership of the Braves as the next guy. And I think Sheehan makes many excellent, general points about the drawbacks of corporate ownership in baseball in the course of his article.  But to say, mere hours after the Vazquez trade that the deal stands as a shining example of corporate neglect of a baseball team is outrageously premature.

Let’s see where the team
is in April. If the Braves have done nothing to improve their offense by then, great, I’ll buy what Sheehan is selling. Until then, give them a chance, OK?

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.