Barry Bonds 1993

Bonds! Clemens! Sosa! Biggio! Schilling! The CSN Insiders go deep on five Hall of Fame candidates

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We here at HBT have been doing drive-bys on all of the Hall of Fame candidates for some time, but on the eve of the Hall of Fame results becoming public, the insiders at Comcast Sportsnet offer you five in-depth takes on five of the top Hall of Fame candidates in 2013:

Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com assess the problematic case of Barry Bonds:

Bonds was the most talented hitter I’ve ever seen. He was a savant. He predicted pitch after pitch from the dugout, leaving his teammates in amazement. Perhaps only Ted Williams had his combination of cunning, vision and confidence.

Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com talks about Roger Clemens before he was assumed to have started taking PEDs:

If you put Clemens’ before-and-after date at 1996, he had won three Cy Young Awards, an MVP and had tied Cy Young as the winningest pitcher in Red Sox history.

Patrick Mooney and Tony Andracki of CSNChicago.com take on Sammy Sosa, and take on Sosa … and continue to take on Sosa

Only seven men have hit more than the 609 home runs Sammy Sosa slammed during his big-league career. He did it with a flair for the dramatic, inside one of baseball’s cathedrals, while playing for a marquee franchise.

John Kelly of CSNHouston.com looks at Craig Biggio:

Craig Biggio is in his first year of eligibility, and in an ordinary year would be a shoe in for induction — 3,060 hits, 668 doubles, 291 home runs, 1,175 RBIs and 1,844 runs scored in a career that spanned 20 seasons, all in a Houston uniform. But this is no ordinary year.

Finally, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com gives us the candidacy of Curt Schilling:

Any look at Schilling’s candidacy has to go heavy on his postseason work: He won World Series in 2001, 2004 and 2007;  He was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a .968 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) in 19 postseason starts; He was 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five elimination starts. (His team won all five.); He was the MVP of the 1993 NLCS with the Phillies; He was the co-MVP of the 2001 World Series with the Diamondbacks.

That’s the overview, but where do our insiders come down on each candidate? How did they vote and, more importantly, what do these guys — who know their subjects better than anyone — think will happen tomorrow when the vote is revealed?

Do yourself a favor and take some time with these in-depth looks.  Because after tomorrow, it will all be history for another year.

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.