Sam Seth Levinson

Competitors squawk, but MLBPA unlikely to punish ACES for Biogenesis clients

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I reported yesterday that, despite the fact that the majority of the players disciplined in the Biogenesis scandal are (or were) represented by the Levinson brothers’ ACES agency, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA was unlikely to take any disciplinary action against the agency. The reason: there is no evidence suggesting that the agency was aware that its players were utilizing Biogenesis. Rather, it was a former consultant, Juan Carlos Nunez, who served as the vector between the clinic and the players. ACES was censured by the MLBPA for its failure to supervise Nunez and Nunez has been fired.

Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish writes today, however, that competing agencies are not happy about this, and quotes many of ACES’ competitors calling for it to be disciplined. They are skeptical of the claim that Nunez was some rogue and all claim that, even if the union doesn’t do anything to punish them, they will lose clients through natural attrition and the sense among players that ACES was a bad actor in the Biogenesis affair.

Which, OK, everyone is entitled to an opinion on this. And yes, it looks pretty bad that one agency was so well-represented.  But I’ll observe that these are competitors to ACES talking and there is nothing that brings out sports agents’ teeth like some blood in the water.

Most fans don’t pay attention to the back-and-forth between agents that goes on, but those who do know that every time one agency is in the news for something even remotely negative, other agents come out of the woodwork to pile on. Ask Paul Kinzer about the coverage he got when he got into a public tiff with Francisco Rodriguez. Ask Scott Boras when he had clients still unsigned late into spring training in the past couple of years. There are always stories quoting competing agents when that stuff happens, talking about how the guy in the spotlight really isn’t doing his clients right. With the implicit statement that his clients should and will shop around for new representation. For cryin’ out loud, we now have (quasi) agents recording dis tracks about their perceived competition. It’s a brutal business.

None of which is to say that the ire at ACES isn’t natural and even understandable. They aren’t likely to be penalized by MLBPA over it all, but one can see how it other agents might be bent out of shape.  It is to say, though, that I’d be way more surprised if ACES’ competitors didn’t come after them than to see what they’re saying now. That would be truly unusual.

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.