Deep thought: Are the Rangers really the last team to win a playoff series?

17 Comments

How many times have we heard it repeated in the last few days that the Rangers are/were the last team to have never won a playoff series? By my count, 1,395, though I may have missed one. Not that it’s not a neat observation or anything. It’s just that, like Shane Victorino being Hawaiian, we’ve heard it before. Many, many times.

But as I heard it repeated again last night, I realized that the only way that observation is accurate is if you count the Montreal Expos 1981 Division Series win over the Phillies on the Washington Nationals’ ledger.  Which I do, personally, because you can’t just pretend the Expos never existed. Baseball-Reference.com does too, and if it’s on there, it may as well be the word of God as far as I’m concerned.

But there are many Nats fans who don’t really claim the Expos. In some cases baseball itself doesn’t either. Someone gave me a book a couple of years, put out by Major League Baseball, highlighting the signature players for each franchise. The Nats’ entry: Brad Wilkerson. Um, yeah.

I also remember a fair number of complaints last summer when the team had the little ceremony honoring Andre Dawson. Whenever the subject of putting up more prominent remembrances of Les Expos around Nationals Park comes up, people are generally sour to the idea. But in order to claim that little slice of playoff glory that makes the Rangers’ feat last night notable, Nats fans have to embrace the Expos.

So I ask the Nats fans: do you?  Do you consider that 1981 playoff win a credit to the franchise, or do you think of your Nats as the last team without a playoff series win, regardless of what everyone is saying today?

I’m not sure how I’d feel about it. I think of the Braves as having three World Series titles, even if two of them came in different cities. But that’s different because (a) the team name and ownership and everything remained constant during moves; and (b) my connection to the Braves has never been a geographic one.

So I suppose I can understand how Nats fans would be loathe to claim the Expos’ legacy. Even if it’s a pretty interesting legacy.

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)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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)
Getty Images
3 Comments

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.