The Yankees go out to play

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Brian Hoch from MLB.com:

The Yankees believed chemistry was one of their strengths as they
pursued a 27th World Series championship last year, and along the way,
many pointed back to a March off-campus billiards tournament as one of
their building blocks.

What?! That’s like saying that the Mongols won the Battle of Liegnitz because Subotai the Valiant had everyone over for a nice dinner party beforehand.

Um, or something.  Look, the point is that pleasant little outings don’t win championships. Home runs and strikeouts and good defense and an embarrassment of roster riches that only the Steinbrenners are both able to and willing to pay for are what win championships! Am I right? I said AM I RIGHT?!

Given that success, manager Joe Girardi is hoping that the formula will
work one more time as the Yankees prepare to defend that title. They
left the bats and balls at the ballpark on Tuesday, heading off to a
Tampa area arcade for an afternoon of fun and video games.

[Facepalm] . . .[composing breath] . . . Fine. You got your 27 rings, I guess you can play some damn whack-a-mole if you want to.  Well? . . . . . . . don’t just sit there smiling like a boob, tell me how it went!


Indy car: A.J. Burnett wins; Dana Cavalea second place
Skeeball: Andrew Brackman wins; Eduardo Nunez second place
Pop-a-shot: Royce Ring wins; Mark Melancon second place

Here’s some of what Mark Teixeira had to say:

“The
highlights were A.J. Burnett just smoking the field in the video game
racing, and Royce Ring being probably the best pop-a-shot basketball
player I’ve ever seen. Those two were hands-down the best at those two
events. Whenever the basket is moving, Royce takes the cake.”

I guess that sounds like fun. But just wait until tomorrow when Ian O’Connor writes a scathing rebuke of Alex Rodriguez for showing his teammates how to get free games by painting the quarter red. Then we’ll see who’s having a good time.

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.