What they're saying about the Ryan Howard deal

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Ryan Howard happy.jpgI said plenty yesterday, but so did a lot of other people. Here’s some of it, starting with the sort of hyperbole that may inspire ESPN to place Jayson Stark under psychiatric evaluation for the next 72 hours, and ending with Matt Swartz at Baseball Prospectus, with what is probably the most middle-ground take I’ve seen.

  • Jayson Stark: It’s quite a tale, all right, for a player who looked as if he was
    going to be blocked by Thome from ever playing in Philadelphia, who
    didn’t get a chance to play every day until age 25, and who only got
    that shot because Thome hurt his elbow in July 2005.But once
    Howard got his chance, he decided to turn himself into his generation’s
    Babe Ruth at the plate.
  • Rob Neyer: The Phillies have done a lot of things right over the last few years.
    But this is a big bowl of wrong.
  • Kevin Kaduk: Even if you’re not fully convinced it’s a deadlock that Howard will turn into David Ortiz  over the next three years . . . you have to wonder why GM Ruben Amaro felt the need to do this deal almost two years earlier than necessary.
  • The 700 Level: Will Phillies fans in 2016 bemoan the $25 million Ryan Howard is
    getting paid that year? Perhaps. But most Phillies fans can barely make
    plans for next weekend let alone five years from now. That’s why Ruben
    Amaro Jr. gets paid to make important, long lasting decisions like this
    one. It’s amazing how every Joe on Twitter turns into a soothsayer on
    days
    like today. Only time will tell if this one pays off down the road. Until
    then, enjoy watching Ryan Howard play first base for your Phillies.
  • Phil Sheridan: Everybody wins. Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up Ryan
    Howard’s time here.
  • Matthew Carruth: When the news first broke and the details started to emerge, I was
    tempted to fill this entire article with just me laughing. My co-writers
    convinced me that while an appropriate response, that was not quite
    informative enough so I have relented and will actually map out the
    value of Ryan Howard’s new extension. I’m laughing pretty hard, though, in case
    you wanted to picture it.
  • David Murphy: I’m not surprised that they decided to sign Howard now, but I would’ve
    thought that any deal would come only as a result of some obvious
    concessions on Howard’s part.
  • Jonah Keri: 5 years, $125 million for Ryan Howard!!! A
    financial quagmire that’ll make the Iraq War look like a slap fight [note: pro-Howard comments don’t have the market cornered on hyperbole].

  • Balls, Sticks and Stuff: Once you get past the initial feel-good wave and you really start to
    examine the contract, things get a bit scary. Think about it, when Ryan
    Howard is in his mid/late-30’s, he’ll be getting paid like one of the
    best players in baseball when the chances of him actually being that
    type of player are slim.
  • Matt Swartz: If you listened to the roar of the sabermetricians, you would think the
    Phillies had thrown nine figures at Juan Castro . . . On the other hand, if you listened to the roar of the old-school
    writers, you would think the Phillies had stolen an MVP off the market
    at a discount . . . The reality is that Howard falls somewhere between these two extremes.
    The contract is far from spectacular, but it is unlikely to be an
    albatross.

A fun project for which I’ll try to make the time later today:  tracking the reactions of those who support this deal against those same people’s reactions to the Alex Rodriguez contract. I have this feeling that it would lead to a pretty interesting lesson about how much value there is to being a likable player when it comes to media treatment of your mega-deal.

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.