Graig Nettles

Should Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles be added to Monument Park?

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Monument Park in Yankees Stadium was once reserved for the best of the best. The Mantles/Berras/Ruths of the world. In some ways that was a bit silly. A function of George Steinbrenner’s obsession with casting Yankees history in near-mythic terms and peddling the notion that anything less than uber-elite and perpetual champion players and teams was not up to Yankees’ snuff. That’s the kind of thing that leads to the sort of eye-rolling that a lot of Yankees fans have toward that franchise today.

And it also did a disservice to the merely good players who, if they played for any other franchise, would likely be honored somehow with a plaque or something in whatever that team’s particular hall of fame happened to be called. Lots of teams have those, by the way. They just don’t have press agents as good as those that Monument Park has had over the years.

The Yankees seem to be changing this. Last month they announced that Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez would be honored in Monument Park. I scoffed a little bit at that when the news came out, but after the weighing-in by some Tino fans and a month or so worth of reflection, I’m feeling cooler about it. Indeed, if this is truly a move by the franchise to come down off its “Only The Titans Are Worthy” stance toward its history, I’m all for it. Making Yankee Stadium a more populist place is good thing. I mean, you don’t go honoring Kevin Maas or anything, but people liked Paul O’Neill so why the heck not? At least as long as you don’t make everyone buy the notion that the standards haven’t been relaxed and that, really, Tino Martinez is worth every bit of praise that, say, Lou Gehrig is.

Anyway, Sweeny Murti thinks that if you’re letting O’Neill and Martinez in, you gotta do more:

O’Neill and Martinez will enjoy wonderful days this summer when they are honored. But if they are being recognized for their vital contributions to a Yankees dynasty, then I think we have to start opening the door to countless more players who could be considered Yankees greats.

We could add dozens more names if we wanted to, and maybe we will. But I’d like to start with two — Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles.

I suppose people’s mileage may vary, but they are pretty much the 1970s equivalents of O’Neill and Martinez. Not the biggest stars on the team, but certainly the sorts of players who could be strong second bananas on any championship club.

What say you, Yankees fans? You all for opening the doors like this? Or does Monument Park need to be reserved for only the inner-circle Yankee greats?

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.