Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times is around 60 years-old but it was just last Saturday that he lost his innocence. At least that’s what I’m taking from his column today. Because if you take it at face value it says that after nearly 40 years of writing and reporting, the the Ryan Braun drug thing is what has finally made him realize that sports are awful and corrupt:
The 2011 MVP of Major League Baseball testing positive for synthetic testosterone might be the crisp cherry atop the mushroom cloud of fraud and cynicism and toxic greed that once was good ol’ sport … Nobody is saying that sports were ever pure. At least you won’t get that from this corner. Heck, I’m not sure David’s method for beating Goliath was sanctioned by the rules. But sport of the last 20 or so years doesn’t appear to have even a vestige of the morality or glorious lesson-learning that old sport seemed to have.
And yes, there is blame to be spread around. Telander blames “TV, the Internet, the multiheaded beast known as ESPN, even Twitter” for this horrible mess. For the lack of heroes that he believes once existed among athletes. For the loss of morality he thinks existed. To which I’d say, on what basis does Telander believe that good ol’ sport ever had those things to begin with?
From racism to violence to cheating to drink to drugs to greed to misogyny to any other vice you can name, it has always existed in sports. Always. Because it has always existed in society and sports is no greater than society in any material respect. Athletes are human beings and human beings are flawed and those flaws lead all of the ills Telander cites in his column. They always have. The only difference: it gets reported more today than it did in the 1930s or whenever.
Is Telander simply unaware of this? Or is his real beef that, because the way the world works, he is now incapable of being unaware?
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.
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.