[fragment number=0]COMMENTARY Fat athletes can be fun. There’s a long list of portly players throughout history that fans have gravitated towards whether it be due to their relatable shape, or a spirit just as large as the frame that envelops he aura. Rich Garces, Vince Wilfork, and Glen Davis are only a few of the beloved bellies Boston fans have embraced over the years. Tony Gwynn and Babe Ruth were two of baseball’s most renowned hitters. John Kruk created a persona surrounded by the fact that his weight and off-field habits didn’t necessarily affect his athletic ability. Bartolo Colon is fat and fabulous at the age of 42.
Pablo Sandoval is no fun.
The Red Sox third baseman punched in for duty at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. Sunday morning and immediately became the punchline of camp. Sandoval, coming off a season during which he hit .245 with a .658 OPS after signing a five-year, $95 million contract with Boston, arrived in Florida looking just as large as he ended his first campaign with the Red Sox. The Boston Globe’s Jim Davis had the money shot of Sandoval working out at third, his girth protruding over his shorts, seemingly boasting of an offseason flirting with Sara Lee and Colonel Sanders.
Wasn’t it just last month Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Sandoval had lost 20 pounds over the winter? Either Farrell was greatly exaggerating the weight loss, or Sandoval went really hard at the turkey legs during his recent visit to Walt Disney World.
The man is fat. This should be of no real revelation to anyone.
Except maybe, that is, Pablo Sandoval.
“I don’t try to lose weight or nothing. I just do my work, feel better,’’ Sandoval told reporters Sunday. “I don’t weigh in at all…I just do my work, try to do everything I can. I don’t weigh in all offseason. I just try to get better, be in better position, be an athlete.’’
Had Sandoval performed anywhere close to how he did in San Francisco over seven years, perhaps this wouldn’t all be as big of an issue. It’s not like the guy was a perennial MVP candidate with the Giants, but the free agent attractiveness for Boston lay in his postseason numbers (.344, .935 OPS) and the undeniable yet dubious thought that the Red Sox could market his “Panda’’ personality.
Red Sox fans thought they were getting a solid solution at third with a gregarious personality to inject into what had become a tedious team to root for. They got neither.
Sandoval insisted on Sunday that the team didn’t request that he lose weight during the offseason, which had Farrell trying to cover for his “20-pound’’ suggestion in January.
“We told him we needed him to come back in better condition,’’ Farrell said. “Along with that, you anticipate there’s some potential for weight to be dropped. But there wasn’t a specific number given where we said, ‘We want you to come in at this weight.’’’
Potential for weight to be dropped?
It was at the Red Sox’ Winter Carnival at Foxwoods just a few, short weeks ago when Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said that the team had been in “constant contact’’ with Sandoval, and reiterated that Farrell said the third baseman had lost weight.
“Again, they call him ‘Panda Bear’ for a reason. He’s not going to be real skinny. But he’s also one where we think he’ll move around better with where he is, and he’s worked very hard this winter,’’ Dombrowski said. “Nutrition’s been important for him, and I think he’s out to show he’s a better player than he performed last year.’’
Well, he’s off to a good start then.
But whose fault is all this, really? The Red Sox knew what they were getting into when they signed Sandoval, listed at 5-foot-11, 255 pounds, but their covering for his hyperbolic offseason regimen is embarrassing for both the team and player. Sandoval looks no different than he did last spring, and his attitude suggests that he’s completely unaware of his surroundings, despite Farrell’s decree that the player wants to make amends after his awful, debut season in Boston.
Nobody was expecting Channing Tatum to waltz into camp on Sunday, but the fact that Sandoval looked as if he just finished a Netflix binge session didn’t ease any fears that he might not be as committed to improving as the Red Sox want everybody to believe.
Sandoval had 15 errors at third base in 2015. Guess how much he worked on his fielding during the offseason.
“I did no work in the field, nothing,’’ he said.
He says he has nothing to prove, except to prove to the fans that he “can be a better defensive player and offensive player to win games.’’ It’s a message of inconsistency that both Sandoval and the Red Sox are selling, making Farrell and Dombrowski look foolish in their misrepresentations of the player’s offseason.
“I can’t tell you if he got on the scale or not,’’ Farrell said. “I can tell you that after visiting him in January, he looked like he was in better condition. I will say that when we met with every player at the end of last season, each player was given a specific plan, a workout routine, to go into the offseason.’’
“Better condition’’ is the new “lost weight.’’
Whatever phrase you use, it’s inaccurate. Pablo Sandoval is as fat as he ever was.
If I were the Red Sox, I’d be more concerned about the fact that he doesn’t seem to give a damn rather than at what he tips the scales. The guy has $71.8 million still coming, and no takers on the market for his services. Everybody else is laughing at the Red Sox.
Why do they get to have all the fun?
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Red Sox spring training photos