Peter Gammons says there is in his latest column:
As dark as it seems, all three once-great baseball towns have hope.
“The Royals and Pirates have done what small-market teams should do with
their revenue-sharing money,” says one big-market general manager. “The
last couple of years they’ve gone over slot on Draft choices, they’ve
spent heavily in the international market and really worked hard rather
than waste revenues on mediocre veteran players.”
The Indians are probably the closest to getting back to
competitiveness. “We’ve looked back at where we started in the
rebuilding process in 2002,” says Antonetti. That season, they traded
Bartolo Colon to the Expos for Sizemore, Lee and Brandon Phillips, a
rebuilding trade rivaled only by the Mark Teixeira deal between Texas
and Atlanta, which sent five good players, including Neftali Feliz and
Elvis Andrus, to the Rangers.
“Looking at what we had then and what we have now, I think we’re probably deeper [than we’ve been in a long] time.”
This kind of rah-rah is not news coming from general managers. And in the Indians case it’s not new coming from outsiders inasmuch as they’ve done a couple of successful rebuilds since either Pittsburgh or Kansas City has been competitive.
Does it mean anything? Is it smoke? I’ve liked a lot of what all three of these teams have done in trades over the past couple of years. I’ll say, though, that the idea of timing that window — as is discussed at length in the article — just so with no hope whatsoever of holding on to a single big money free agent ups the difficulty by orders of magnitude.
The Royals, Indians and Pirates are never going to sign guys like the Yankees can. But they have to be able to keep some people around longer than the four or so years before that trade-them-or-lose-them imperative sets in. Otherwise, all of this is just vain hope.
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.