This Boston Globe/Nick Cafardo interview with Bobby Valentine is going to get linked and tweeted about a lot today because, buried deep inside, Valentine opines that, had he stayed with the Red Sox for 2013, he thinks he could have turned the ship around. But to the extent people play the “OMG, look at what that deluded nut Valentine said!” game, they’re being pretty unfair to the guy.
Yes, he said he thinks he could have won with the 2013 Red Sox. But that little bit is surrounded by tons of high praise for John Farrell, Ben Cherington and the players on the 2013 Red Sox team. Indeed, if anything, this is about as magnanimous and un-self-centered a set of comments Valentine will ever offer when something directly related to him comes up. Here’s the entire quote:
“I’d like to think that if I came back for my second year that, given the changes and improvements, I would have been able to do the same thing,” Valentine said. “Ben did a great job this offseason rebuilding the team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before. Usually a team will go after one or two free agents and hope they work out. When you’re signing seven or eight guys and they all work out and blend in together as well as they did, that’s amazing to me. The entire organization should be very proud of what they did. They should take a bow. It was amazing work.”
The “blending” thing — in addition to some more direct comments earlier — is clearly Valentine’s hats-off to Farrell. The comments about Cherington and the roster makeover are clear. The bit about “if I came back …” well, what do you expect him to say? “Really, Nick, if they brought me back this season it would have been like a flaming bag of crap on someone’s front porch. I mean, we woulda stunk on ice!” Of course the guy is going to say he could have done a better job. He’s a former athlete and all-around confident person. It’d be news if the guy was suddenly defeatist.
As it is: good on Valentine for offering praise in a situation where a lot of guys may have offered it more backhandedly or, more likely, declined comment at all. If anyone is playing the “Bobby V. said something crazy!” game with this, they’re misrepresenting the man.
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.