In N Out

Greetings from Day 3 of the Winter Meetings

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In-N-Out in Dallas?  Who knew?  Baseball writers, that’s who. You could put them on an island in some far flung sea and they’d be able to find an In-N-Out Burger.  It’s just what they do.

I felt obligated to go anyway. The lobby was getting to be too much for me last night.  The first 200 conversations that began with “so, who do you think the Mystery Team is?” were endurable but it got slightly less so as the evening wore on. Sometimes you just need a cheeseburger in that situation.

Not that anyone could or should think that Pujols talk was avoidable. He has dominated the first two days of the Winter Meetings, for obvious reasons. He’s huge. No one else is doing anything. And oh my God, the Marlins.

Maybe the Marlins with some hubris, too: they spread the word yesterday that they wanted a decision from Pujols last night. Well, it’s 7AM here and he’s still a free agent. As if they were going to pull their offer because of an arbitrary deadline.  It’s like they’re trying to steal someone’s wife and are forcing her to run off with them tonight lest she think too hard about what she’s doing and change her mind. Albert will decide on Albert’s time.

Otherwise, in the event that, unlike me, you went to bed at a decent hour, wake up this morning to the knowledge that the Tigers are interested in Gio Gonzalez, though the A’s are apparently asking a mint.  The Mariners are maintaining their pursuit of Prince Fielder. The Mets paid what seems like way too damn much money for Frank Francisco.  Sandy Alderson seemed like a guy who understood supply and demand, but I suppose not. He isn’t the first GM to go reliever crazy this winter.

Pujols has to sign today, right? I mean, he can’t keep teasing us all like this, can he?  Either way, we’ll be on the case again. Keep HBT up all day. Your boss will understand. This is serious business.

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.

Video: Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran give signs from the dugout

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers stands in the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.

You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this: