Dear Boston Red Sox,
I know times might be a little bit tough right now in Beantown, so I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know that you are appreciated.
So, from a four-decade-long San Francisco Giants fan, I would just like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to you, on behalf of all Giants fans, for signing Pablo Sandoval away from the Giants in November 2015.
Sandoval, aka Kung Fu Panda, was a fan favorite in San Francisco for seven seasons. Panda Hats were everywhere. He was a two-time all-star, the 2012 World Series MVP, he joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three homers in a World Series game, he was one of only two position players to play on all three of the Giants world championship teams and he caught the final out of the 2014 World Series.
But through all those good times, there were issues with Sandoval. The Giants were well aware about how Sandoval’s weight would fluctuate more than Kirstie Alley. Truly, Sandoval could have landed a spokesman gig for Jenny Craig, if anyone could understand what the fudge he was saying (OK, given the context of this letter, we understand that the use of the word “fudge” was probably insensitive. I apologize.)
Sandoval’s weight struggle would often correlate to becoming a defensive liability and prolonged slumps at the plate. It was evident during the 2010 World Series run when Sandoval was relegated to the bench.
So Sandoval spent that offseason on an exercise regimen that produced a sleeker and more slender Panda for the 2011 season.
But by the end of that season, the plumper Panda began to return. While his agents and the Giants were working on a new contract that would cover his arbitration years, Sandoval saw his weight jump 21 pounds in 21 days during the holidays in his native Venezuela.
Knowing that the Giants would have eyes on him, Sandoval went back to his trainer in Arizona to embark on a crash course in fitness, working out seven days a week, often three times a day.
The result of that offseason was a three-year, $17 million contract. Sandoval was an All-Star in 2012 and World Series MVP.
But video emerged in the offseason after the 2012 season showing Sandoval in the Venezuela World Series, as big as ever. After manager Bruce Bochy threatened to sit him the following spring training until he got in shape, Sandoval said he needed to get his weight under control.
By August 2013, Sandoval revealded that he had lost 22 points in six weeks after hiring his brother to be his personal chef. “Everything healthy,” Sandoval said at the time. His brother “goes everywhere with me.”
Fast-forward to spring training 2014 when the Giants and Sandoval were working on a contract extension that would keep him in a Giants uniform for years to come. Sandoval’s agent wanted a deal similar to the one the Giants gave Hunter Pence the previous fall.The Giants were so sure.
Then Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vazquez, said:
“The weight issues he had before, you’ll never see that again. He will have his trainer with him until he retires.”
That’s like an addict, while leaving rehab, saying that his dependency issues are a thing of the past. In fact, that’s exactly what Sandoval’s former trainer, Eric Banning, told the Boston Herald earlier this week.
On Sandoval’s eating issues, Banning said: “He needs to be smart enough to say there’s a problem. It’s like the alcoholic that won’t admit he’s an alcoholic. Well, you can’t address that you’re an alcoholic if you don’t ever admit there’s a problem.”
Banning went even further, adding: ““He’s proven to me and shown consistently that he’s got to have somebody like me holding his hand doing that (monitoring his eating). And it’s not an exercise thing, it’s an eating thing.”
Banning worked with Sandoval during the winters of 2011 and 2012. But Banning hasn’t been in contact with the Panda since he got that three-year deal from the Giants prior to the 2012 season.
That should have been a red flag on a major concern the Giants had: What would Sandoval do about his weight after being given a long-term deal?
Despite that, the Giants were in the mix to re-sign Sandoval after the 2014 season, along with the Red Sox and Padres. They matched the Red Sox offer of six years, $95 million and reportedly showed a willingness to go to $100 million.
But Sandoval turned them down and took the Red Sox offer, saying he wanted a “new challenge.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Red Sox.
The Giants left Sandoval go. That opened the door for Matt Duffy, who was the runner-up for the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year award.
With the draft pick they got from Sandoval signing with the Red Sox, the Giants took Chris Shaw, a left-handed hitting first baseman from Boston College. Shaw hit .287 with 12 home runs and 30 RBI in 46 games with short-season Class A Salem-Keizer last summer. He’s hitting .292 early this season with High-A San Jose.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Sandoval – after saying that he didn’t miss anyone back in San Francisco except Bruce Bochy and maybe Hunter Pence — labored through the 2015 season, hitting .245 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI – all career lows for Sandoval since becoming a full-time player in 2009, despite playing in the far more hitter friendly confines of Fenway Park. And Sandoval had become a defensive liability at third base.
Sandoval’s struggles continued into this spring, leading the Red Sox to have the Panda start the 2016 season as a bench player.
That led Sandoval’s new agent, Rick Thurman, to declare: “That’s like leaving a Ferrari in a garage.”
Wait, Rick. Is Sandoval the Ferrari or the garage in that analogy?
Then last week there was the video of Sandoval swinging at a pitch and popping his belt.
A couple of days later Sandoval developed a mysterious shoulder injury, and the Red Sox putting him on the DL without him even having an MRI. It’s almost like if Sandoval had complained of the sniffles, the Red Sox would have claimed he had pneumonia without taking his temperature.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Herald wrote: “Certainly, this new, mysterious shoulder ailment has set the team back as far as trying to deal him. It also raised a few eyebrows from Sox rivals, even in the procedural manner in which they placed him on the disabled list, and the league is reviewing that process.”
The Red Sox will send Sandoval to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on Monday. We have no doubt that Andrews will recommend Sandoval lose some weight.
The DL move has allowed the Red Sox to kick the Panda issue down the road, as the option of trading doesn’t seem in play, even as rumors involving the Padres continue to circulate. Cafardo said on AL executive doesn’t think Sandoval has any value.
The Red Sox still owe Sandoval $77 million. And while we know the Sox have deep pockets, deep enough to eat the rest of Sandoval’s contract (again, we’re sorry if the use of the word “eat” given the context of this letter is insensitive), we Giants fans are left with the relief that it’s issue the Giants don’t have to deal with.
And that’s all because of you, dear Red Sox, for stepping in during November of 2014 and saving us.
So, once again, thank you.
A San Francisco Giants fan since 1973