unsolved mysteries

Jon Heyman keeps banging the Cliff Lee “mystery team” drum

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This morning several baseball media heavyweights took public jabs as SI.com’s Jon Heyman over his repeatedly reporting on a supposed “mystery team” joining the Rangers and Yankees in the mix for Cliff Lee.

First there was Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweeting: “Remember: if you ever read about a ‘mystery team,’ it can only come spoon-fed from an agent who is trying to create leverage.”

Shortly after that Peter Gammons of MLB.com got in on the fun: “Mystery, Alaska in on Lee?”

And then Keith Law of ESPN.com tweeted: “Saw the Mystery Team GM at the winter meetings. He was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.”

Heyman tried to brush off the criticisms by making a joke about the situation, tweeting that he was “grabbing lunch at MLB Network now” while using a #mysterysandwich hashtag, but shortly after that his latest column was posted at SI.com and it included more references to the supposed “mystery team” bidding on Lee.

In fact, Heyman used the phrase “mystery team” five times in the column (and even threw in a “mystery offer” for good measure):

1) “The Royals are eyeing the Lee talks with interest, as the Yankees could possibly consider Greinke if they should be upset for Lee by the incumbent Rangers or even a mystery team.”

2) “It isn’t known whether the Angels are the remaining mystery team in on Lee, but they at least checked in on him and could become a suitor for Greinke, too.”

3) “Lee is believed to be deciding between the Yankees, Rangers and one remaining mystery team, whose offer is also a mystery.”

4) “The Angels have shown interest in Lee. But one person familiar with their thinking claimed they are “offensively focused” at present, so they don’t appear to be the mystery team.”

5) “The Red Sox were found to be one of two mystery teams at the winter meetings but their signing of Crawford would seem to make them very unlikely now.”

It’s one thing when some lowly bloggers like Craig and I are picking on Heyman for the “mystery team” stuff, but when guys like Olney, Gammons, and Law join in you’d think he might ease up on that type of “reporting.” Instead he made a joke about it to lessen some of the criticism coming his way … and then immediately published a new column packed with “mystery team” references.

Heyman may indeed be right, but if he knows information he should report it rather than shrouding it in hysteria-inducing “mystery.” Given his frequent attempts to assuage people of the notion that he’s a shill for agents you’d think Heyman might have a little more awareness about how this stuff is perceived by readers and colleagues. Or maybe he just can’t help himself.

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.