2016 has been a year that Pablo Sandoval would like to forget. He had a miserable spring training, batting .204 in 49 at-bats and lost out on the starting third base job to Travis Shaw. The press took shots at his weight and the Sox front office made it clear that they were unhappy with his overall conditioning. He then went hitless in seven regular season plate appearances before landing on the disabled list with a sprained left shoulder, which ultimately required reconstructive surgery, sidelining him for the rest of the year.
In August there was a report that Sandoval had lost 22 pounds and was proceeding through his shoulder rehab admirably. There was even a brief suggestion that he could be available to play for the Sox towards the end of the season, though that obviously did not come to pass. Either way, the trajectory of the Sandoval narrative was finally beginning to point upward.
And it points upward still, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe provides a report of the Red Sox third base situation which makes it sound pretty good for Sandoval’s prospects of winning back the starting third base job.
Abraham notes that Sandoval’s replacements, Travis Shaw and Brock Holt, were wildly inconsistent. Likewise, Yoan Moncada, who many thought would take over the job due to his sheer talent and upside, struggled soon after being given a chance and has shown himself to be strikeout prone and possibly in need of more seasoning. He also injured his thumb in Arizona Fall League play.
None of which is to say that Sandoval will be the man in 2017, but if he’s healthy and he’s in better shape, he should get the longest look for the job in spring training. He’s under contract for a lot of money over the next three years and he has a history of bouncing back strong after off years. Stranger things have happened.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.
Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.
“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”
A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.
Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.
Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.
The score was tied in the top of the 10th inning in last night’s game between the Dodgers and the Cardinals. Yadier Molina was up to bat, facing Kenley Jansen and drove one to deep right center field.
Yasiel Puig was in full run for the ball as center fielder Joc Pederson ranged hard for it himself. Puig caught the ball, but not before slamming into Pederson. Both men went down, but Pederson went down harder, taking an elbow to the face from Puig before crashing head-first into the outfield wall.
Pederson came out of the game, apparently bleeding from his head. There will be an update on his condition today.
UPDATE: Oops, there was an update last night: