The Merc’s Tim Kawakami thinks he sees something:
Once Jeff Bagwell and Roberto Alomar (both born in 1968) get voted into
the Baseball Hall of Fame next January, there will be a strange
generation gap in Cooperstown . . . For multiple reasons, the players born from 1961-1967 will be
markedly unrepresented in Cooperstown for at least another year or two
and maybe more, even though this is historically when my age-peers
should be plowing into the HOF in solid waves. Hmm.
Kawakami notes that the there is only one guy in the Hall — Cal Ripken — who was born after 1960. He goes on to say that PEDs have something to do with this, suggesting that they (a) prolonged many guys’ careers, bumping their eligibility back in time; and (b) squeezed out a generation of guys by making what were once Hall-worthy statistics appear lacking. So no Will Clark, for example.
I suppose I’d consider his argument a hell of a lot more seriously if we couldn’t go way back to the year 2000 and see that back then there were only two guys — Robin Yount and George Brett — who were born after 1950. In 1990 there were four guys born after 1940: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer and Catfish Hunter (and let’s be honest; Hunter probably didn’t deserve induction). I suppose you could call that a trend, but it’s not much of one.
And if I had to guess the reason for it I’d say that it has way more to do with ballplayer salaries than it does PEDs. There was a time — just before the time that guys who were born in the late 30s and early 40s were retiring — when a famous ballplayer could make more money leaving the game to open a car dealership or to pursue a job in broadcasting than he could by hanging on for an extra year or two playing. Indeed, contrary to the lazy “players don’t need to play as long these days with all of their millions” line of thinking the prospect of making many millions of dollars a year provides an incentive to keep playing. Who’d a thunk it?
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin and — if people don’t let steroid derangement syndrome cloud their judgment — Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds should all be inducted in the next few years. At that point we’ll likely be talking more about the large number of 1961-67 vintage players in the Hall of Fame, not the lack thereof.
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.
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.