I like to think I’m less cynical than most around here, but after that display this afternoon during Pablo Sandoval’s introductory press conference, I’d believe it if you told me the Red Sox went an extra $10 million on his contract just because of the Panda angle.
I suppose the Panda-pushing was expected, but not so soon and in such a cringe-inducing manner. Having some dude dressed up in a semi-shoddy Panda outfit seemed to amuse Sandoval, but it also confirmed that he is viewed as someone who can be marketed relentlessly on NESN.
And he will be marketed relentlessly. Already is.
That’s of course the Red Sox prerogative. I just wish they’d made this more about baseball today and less about new friends for Wally and Gary Striewski.
So let’s make it about baseball, and the spot where the larger-than-life Sandoval can really help the Red Sox. How about a quick spin through the Red Sox’ potential lineup, which should score much closer to the 2013 champs’ total of 853 runs than the 634 scattered by the 2014 offense:
1. Mookie Betts, RF. He’s not going anywhere — except straight to the top of the order.
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B. He’s in slight decline, in part due to injuries, but he’s still a superb defender and a quintessential No. 2 hitter.
3. David Ortiz, DH. 35 homers last year were his most since ’07; .873 OPS was his lowest since ’09.
4. Hanley Ramirez, LF. A Ramirez in left field and batting cleanup for the Red Sox? All is right with the world.
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B. Fun-fact: People think he looks like a Panda! Wait, you knew that?
6. Mike Napoli, 1B. Expecting a big bounce-back year now that he’s healthy and actually sleeps at night now.
7. Rusney Castillo, CF. Still think there’s a 0.17 percent chance he gets traded. That would be ruthless, wouldn’t it?
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS. Those who thought Ramirez coming here meant Bogaerts was on the move can think otherwise. Bogaerts isn’t going anywhere either.
9. Chrstian Vazquez, C. If they honestly believe he’ll hit enough to be their catcher the next half-dozen years, Blake Swihart makes for a hell of a potential trade chip.
That is a potential powerhouse, though we’re counting on some favorable developments. Ramirez, Pedroia and Napoli need to stay healthy. Bogaerts, Betts and Castillo need to avoid the hiccups that can plague young or inexperienced players. Papi must remain ageless.
But it’s promising enough that looking at that nine on paper makes you wish April 6 in Philadelphia would hurry up and get here.
Of course, then you remember that Clay Buchholz is currently lined up, by default, to be the starter on Opening Day, and you remember there’s still so much to be done this winter. But so far, so good.
Now if we could just convince the Red Sox that Jon Lester has a cool, marketable animal nickname that makes him totally worth paying a little extra for, then we’d really be getting somewhere.