Barry Larkin

What can we learn from the Hall of Fame voting this year?

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I’m not one of those people who go crazy at the actual vote totals. You’re either in or you’re out, and if someone got 53.4% of the vote as opposed to 66.2% I’m not going to blow a gasket.

That said, there are a lot of things we can learn from the vote totals. So, in the interests of observation and science, let’s see what this year’s ballot really means:

  • For all of the ink spilled in his name, Jack Morris got only a slight bump in Hall balloting from last year, going up to 53.5%  from 52.3% in 2010.  While it’s true that most players who get 50% of the vote eventually get in, one would think that Morris would get a bigger bump.  If he doesn’t make huge strides next year, he may be blotted out by the Maddux-Glavine-Pedro-Johnson conga line that will come in a few years. Oh, and he’s going to fall off the ballot in three years regardless, so he had better enlist a good campaign team;
  • Barry Larkin seems to be on a strong course toward election. 62.1% in his first year of eligibility is strong. Next year’s class is weak.  I think he gets the call in 2012.
  • How does Robbie Alomar go from 73% to 90% in one year?  The only real explanation is that there was a huge penalty placed on him for not being what some consider a traditional first-ballot guy.  Which just goes to show that, no matter what the actual Hall voting rules say — and they specifically say that there is no special designation for “first ballot” guys — voters will read their own rules into the process.
  • Edgar Martinez got only 32.9% of the vote. I guess that tells us what the electorate thinks of the DH.
  • Mark McGwire — who for years was implored by voters to “come clean,” came clean in 2010.  He was rewarded with a reduction in his vote totals, going from 23.7% in 2010 to 19.8% this year.
  • Jeff Bagwell — who has been lambasted for, well, nothing — only received 41.7% of the vote despite being — arguably — the best first baseman in National League history.  Not a terrible vote for a first-timer, as many who have gone on to election began with vote totals in the 40% range, but far below where he should have been. Really, he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
  • Other PED-associated players were killed: Rafael Palmeiro only got 11%. Kevin Brown fell clear off the ballot with 2.1%.  I don’t think that either of them would be slam dunk guys anyway, but their vote totals — and the totals for Bagwell and McGwire — suggest that other players tied — or in Bagwell’s case, erroneously-tied — to steroids are going to face a bloodbath.  Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens get on the ballot in two years.  They’re going to get creamed and that’s going to make all of the little Jeff Bagwell and Bert Blyleven arguments seem like pleasantries exchanged over tea and cucumber sandwiches.
  • B.J. Surhoff got two votes. Wow.  Benito Santiago and Brett Boone got one. Double wow.

There’s a lot more that can be mined from that data.  The vote totals are here.

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.