Whether it’s via settlement or via arbitration, by the end of the day there is no escaping the fact that MLB is gonna knock Alex Rodriguez absolutely senseless. Maybe it effectively ends his career. It certainly will cost him tens of millions. No one this side of Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe has ever been blasted to the stone age like A-Rod is gonna be.
But it’s probably worth remembering that the only reason MLB is getting this opportunity is because its testing couldn’t catch A-Rod in the first place.
Really: if MLB’s drug testing program had caught Rodriguez with the Biogenesis drugs in his system, he would’ve gotten a 50-game suspension. Maybe two years ago, maybe last year. Either way, he would have already served his time and been done with it. There wouldn’t have been a broader investigation into his activities and there wouldn’t have been the chance for him to make 50 bad decisions since it started, which I am assuming has happened. Instead, he would’ve gotten the Bartolo Colon/Melky Cabrera treatment and would probably be playing games for the Yankees next week.
But it didn’t go down that way. Colon and Cabrera had the bad luck — which now looks like very good luck — to have been caught on days when the Biogenesis testosterone was in their system. A-Rod did not. That’s all that makes them different here. It’s what made them subject to the collectively-bargained 50-game sanctions and what put A-Rod into this odd world where MLB, with union approval, can go off-books in the discipline department and drop its bunker-buster on him.
That doesn’t change anything, really. And it isn’t some indictment of MLB or its drug testing system. Drug testing will never be perfect. You can’t test guys every day so some people are gonna fall through the cracks. And as such, arguments that these circumstances somehow render A-Rod’s punishment unfair will almost certainly fail given where we are and will definitely fall on deaf ears in the court of public opinion.
But it is probably worth remembering that, as we give Major League Baseball our “attaboys” for getting tough on Rodriguez, that it was only given the chance to due to the vagaries and randomness of random drug testing to begin with. If the pee-collection schedule worked out differently in the past year, we’d be having a very different conversation about A-Rod and drugs and stuff.
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.