File photo of Seattle Mariners' Griffey Jr. following through a three-run home run against the Yankees in Seattle

Ken Griffey Jr. talks about why he retired

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When Ken Griffey Jr. retired last year, he did so pretty quietly.  Yes, there was a bit of rancor around the time it happened, but there wasn’t much to the actual announcement. An announcement which almost got lost in the shuffle because it happened on the same night as the Armando Galarraga Jim Joyce game.  He spoke with the media about it yesterday, however, and said it would be the last time he does:

“Last year I felt that it was much better for me to remove myself from the team. I told [Chuck Armstrong] and [Howard Lincoln] if I felt I was going to become a distraction, then I [would] retire. One thing I didn’t want to become is a distraction to the organization … There was no fault. Things happen. I’m not upset. People thought I was upset about certain things. That wasn’t the case. I just felt it was more important to retire instead of becoming a distraction. It no longer became the Seattle Mariners. It became, ‘When is Ken doing this? When is Ken doing that?’ I didn’t want people who I truly care about have to answer those questions day in and day out.”

Most folks believe that Griffey and manager Don Wakamatsu were at odds, which was probably a safe assumption. It’s also clear, though, that Griffey had nothing left as a player, so the rancor and the distraction were likely only part of the equation.

And, actually, Griffey’s diminished-to-the-point-of-disappearing skills are probably what made the relationship between Wakamatsu and Griffey so tough to begin with. Piecing together the various things we’ve heard in the past year, the manager understandably felt that he had to win games, and he couldn’t do it with Griffey. He needed to limit Griffey’s contribution, but didn’t have any support from the front office in how to do that.  This, in turn, led to the rest of the team turning on Wakamatsu when he limited Griffey’s role and it turned ugly from there.  And while in my view it was the front office that should have driven that train and smoothed things out with respect to Griffey being benched, it’s also quite possible that Wakamatsu didn’t distinguish himself in the interpersonal relations department himself.

Ultimately this is a minor footnote to a Hall of Fame career, but it’s interesting all the same.

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.