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Manny aims to ‘be a role model,’ rehab image

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Manny Ramirez left Major League Baseball in disgrace early last season after violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy for the second time.

Rather than face the mandated 100-game suspension, and the negative attention that would come with it, Ramirez opted to retire after just five games – and one measly single in 17 plate appearances – with the Tampa Bay Rays. As if his image couldn’t fall any further, he was arrested in September and charged with battery in a domestic dispute with his wife.

Now he wants a chance to not only write a happier ending to a career that once looked like a slam dunk for Cooperstown, but also to rehabilitate his image. He pulled out all the stops in an earnest and at times emotional interview with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. (Watch the video)

“I want to show people that Manny can change, that he can do the right thing,” Ramirez told ESPN’s Pedro Gomez in an interview. “And to show people that I still can play. I don’t want to leave the game like I did. I also want to show my kids that if you make a mistake, don’t quit. Just go back and fix it. And if you’re going to leave, leave the right way.”

Asked why a team should give him a chance, Ramirez made two points:

1. “I still can play.”

2. “I’m gonna be a role model.”

I’ll give the more cynical readers a chance to stop laughing before I continue … OK, ready?

I have to admit I had a good chuckle over Manny’s two-pronged argument, but in watching the video, you can’t help but get the feeling that he actually believes what he’s saying, and if he believes it, who knows? Maybe Ramirez does have the pride and the drive to re-write his own ending.

The real question, of course, is whether anyone will give him a chance. Ramirez does have 555 career home runs and a .312/.411/.585 line to go with it, but it’s difficult to imagine any team offering more than a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training at this point, and you have to wonder if a guy who has made more than $200 million over the course of his career will be willing to swallow his pride and take such an offer. That could be the real test to see just how serious Ramirez is.

And as earnest as Ramirez seems in his interview with Gomez, there are a couple of red flags that crop up in the video.

  • One is that Gomez says Manny “forgot how to pick up a bat during his time away,” and that he is working to retool his swing in the batting cages. That’s not a good sign given how he slid after his first failed drug test.
  • Another warning sign is his cutting edge workout regimen, complete with shower cap. Just look and see for yourself.

On the bright side, Ramirez’s suspension has been reduced to 50 games (he would begin serving it on opening day should he sign). So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

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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.