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Bud Selig holds court: discusses replay, Wahoo, Montreal, chewing tobacco, and much, much more

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MINNESOTA, MN — Commissioner Bud Selig held the town hall-style meetings he always holds at baseball’s jewel events — the Winter Meetings, the All-Star Game, the World Series — and while we all argue and discuss this stuff all the time, when the Commissioner speaks, things happen. Or at least start to happen. Dormant topics are given new life, much-discussed topics are put to rest or, more often, the can is kicked down the road a bit. The point: Selig’s comments on these things shapes the conversation, so let’s buzz through Bud buzzed through late this morning here in Minneapolis:

Montreal

Selig was asked about the exhibition games held in Montreal last spring. He said “I thought that was marvelous,” and said that Montreal would be “an excellent candidate in the future” for relocation of a franchise. He did note that the ballpark was a big problem, so it’s not as if Major League Baseball would move someone there any time soon, but one gets the sense that the Lords of Baseball would like to maintain Montreal as a reasonable bluff at the very least.

Length of Games

Some contradictory comments here. As we noted earlier today, Selig said that “television wants a three-hour program” when it comes to the Home Run Derby, but also noted that he’d like to “accelerate the pace of the game.” Given that TV and the commercials they show — especially during the playoffs — often lead to long games, this is not going to be an easy nut to crack.

Chief Wahoo:

Selig was asked about the Indians racist mascot. Obviously seeking to avoid the sort of controversy which has engulfed the Washington Redskins and the NFL, Selig went to one of his favorite plays from his old playbook: feigning ignorance. Selig said “I’ve never had anybody talk to me” about Wahoo as an issue and said the Indians have had polls and studies that indicate people don’t care. Which has zero to do with whether a red-faced racial caricature is appropriate or not, but go ahead and wave a poll. Selig also famously said no one he knew ever said baseball needed instant replay. He continued saying it until the very moment instant replay was introduced.

Instant Replay/Plate Collision Rule

Speaking of instant replay, Selig said it could use some tweaking but that he’s generally pleased. I think that’s fair. Someone asked him about the stalling process managers use before deciding to challenge and was asked about whether managers could throw a flag, perhaps. Selig said:

“In certain cities you may have a whole laundry bag coming out on the field.”

I would assume he’s talking about Philly there. As for the home plate collision rule, Selig said that it will be on the books in 2015 despite it being considered an “experimental” rule at the moment and despite some criticism of its implementation. Selig said we haven’t had any horrific collisions at home plate yet, however, and that’s the point. Which also explains the logic of the rock I keep in my pocket, but we’ll leave that go for now.

Smokeless Tobacco

In the wake of Tony Gwynn’s death, Selig was asked about baseball getting tougher on smokeless tobacco. Selig said that’s a matter for collective bargaining but noted that, at some point, grown men are allowed to make their own decisions and that all the league can practically do right now is communicate to players how dangerous it is and hope they make good decisions.

Derek Jeter

As everyone else has been asked about Derek Jeter this week, someone asked Selig about the retiring Yankees Captain. Selig totally ripped Jeter a new one, saying that the game will be better once he’s gone.

Oh, wait. No. He said “How lucky can this sport be to have the icon of this generation turn out to be Derek Jeter.”

That strikes me as an odd way to put that, but Bud’s sentiments seemed quite sincere, so let’s give the Commissioner credit for being a fan with some passion. As he always truly has been if you watched closely, but it’s kinda neat to see Selig showing it in his official capacity.

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.