Look at this picture. Does this man look like an athlete to you? More importantly, does this man look like a $90 million athlete? Well, somehow, he is. Before we talk about that, let’s go back a few years.
Pablo Sandoval, affectionately known as “Kung Fu Panda”, has always been big. Standing at 5-foot-11 and weighing 267 pounds, Sandoval burst onto the scene in 2009 with the San Francisco Giants. That season he provided an incredible .330/.387/.556 slash line with 25 homers and 44 doubles while finishing 7th in the National League MVP voting, making him a Bay Area fan favorite.
In 2010, the Giants would go on to win the World Series (their first of 3 in a 5 year stretch), however, it was largely without the help of Sandoval. The Panda produced a pedestrian .268/.323/.409 with only 13 long-balls, 63 RBI and 34 doubles while upping his weight to 278 pounds.
Worried about his health, the Giants implemented an offseason weight-loss program entitled “Operation Panda”. The goal was to get him into better playing shape in hopes that it would increase his production for the 2011 season. It worked. Pablo lost 30 pounds and hit .315/.357/.552 with 23 homers and made his first All-Star Game. He would have set career highs in almost every category, however, he was forced to miss 41 games to a broken hamate bone in his right hand.
Picking up where he left off, Sandoval was on an absolute tear to start the 2012 campaign. In the first month of the season he broke the Giants’ franchise record for consecutive games with a hit to start a season (20). His luck ran out there. He broke his left hamate bone in May which forced him to sit out for a month. In late July, he injured his left hamstring, forcing him out another month. At the end of the season, Sandoval ultimately proved he was healthy by hitting 3 home runs in Game 1 of the World Series, helping him to become the 2012 World Series MVP.
“Operation Panda” was then thrown away. Towards the end of a mediocre 2013 season, Sandoval’s weight became an issue yet again. Encouraged by the front office, Sandoval shed a few pounds before the 2014 season, although it didn’t really help. He hit an ice-cold .165 to start off the season and proceeded to ask the Giants for a 5 year, $100 million extension. Thus, starting the end of his career with the Giants.
Despite playing in 16 more games, Sandoval’s 2014 numbers were nearly identical to 2013. 16 homers, 73 RBI and a .279 average, Sandoval was your middle-of-the-road third baseman. Refusing to take a hometown discount, the Giants did not put up much of a fight to resign the now free agent (and no one else did either). Due to a weak free agent market for third baseman (Chase Headley was the next best available), Sandoval was able to secure a $90 million deal over 5 years with the Boston Red Sox.
Unlike the Giants, Boston said they did not care what Sandoval did with his body as long as he produced great numbers. Well, he didn’t. Panda started the season overweight and was an absolute disaster, both at the plate and on the field. Hitting a terrible .245/.292/.366 with only 10 home runs and drawing a measly 25 walks, Sandoval quickly fell out of favor with the Boston loyal (checking Instagram while using the bathroom during a game didn’t help…) and he found himself benched.
We have finally made it to the incredible picture posted up top. Weighing in at what looks to be 300 pounds, Pablo has started off the season on a terrible note. The man is obviously in the worst shape of his career and is now causing friction within the organization.
It is going to be a fun year following this, unless, of course, you’re a Boston fan. If only the Red Sox had taken my advice.