The Red Sox started the 2015 season with two high-profile, well-paid new free agent acquisitions. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval arrived in Boston with a reputation for postseason heroics. There were concerns about his weight, as well as his year-in, year-out consistency.
His first year in Boston was the worst full season of his eight year career. All of Sandoval’s numbers were down. His average dipped below .268 for the first time ever (.245) his ops was a career low .658. Home runs, RBI’s, runs scored, all career lows. The only stat he did produce in was errors. Sandoval committed 15 errors, the second highest total of his career.
It was by any rational standards, a bad year. It wasn’t just a bad year for Sandoval. The Red Sox had a bad year. Oh sure there were some bright spots, but Sandoval wasn’t one of them, neither was the team’s third last place finish in four years.
So it came as no surprise when within a day of the season ending, the Red Sox and their interim manager Torey Lovullo made a point of telling the media that the team would like to see Sandoval and Ramirez lose some weight before the start of the 2016 season.
Sandoval was supposed to show up in Fort Myers this past Saturday, when that didn’t happen that wasn’t good. When he did show up on Sunday, well that’s when things got worse.
Did Sandoval lose weight? Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but the key issues are that he does not appear to have shed meaningful weight, and perhaps of greater concern, he does not seem to care.
According to Sandoval the Red Sox never asked him to lose weight, and even if they had, he doesn’t weigh himself anyway (full disclosure, I don’t weigh myself very often, but fear not, I’m not playing third base for the Red Sox…ever.)
“I don’t weigh. I don’t weigh in at all,” Sandoval said upon his arrival in Fort Myers, Fla. “I just do my work, try to do everything I can out there. I don’t weigh at all in the whole offseason. I just try to get better, be in a better position and, like I say, be an athlete.”
Sandoval followed up his comments on weight-loss, or rather a lack of weight-loss with a slew of comments that expressed, apathy and indifference towards his own performance.
Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reported on Sandoval’s statements to the press.
Was the 2015 season a disappointment? Apparently not.
“It’s not a disappointment,” he said. “It’s baseball. It’s surprising. You’re not going to have the whole season great. You’re going to have some ups and downs. You have to prepare yourself to be ready. And when those down moments come, shake it off and keep working hard to do everything you can do to prove next year will be better than that.”
Does he feel as if he’s got something to prove to Red Sox fans?
“I don’t got nothing to prove,” he said. “I just prepare myself to perform well, to support my teammates to play well, to try to get to the World Series. So I (have) some goals this year I’ve got in my mind. Keep working hard.”
There’s a little bit of wiggle room here. At a minimum Sandoval clearly doesn’t understand how best to manage the expectations of Red Sox fans, and the media that provides nearly 24-hour, year-round coverage of the team.
Sandoval should probably be able to understand that fans aren’t happy about 2015, and that he did underperform. Is this as big an issue as everyone is making it out to be?
It is still February, New England is baseball country, and the region hasn’t really been able to enjoy meaningful games since October of 2013.
Over the winter, new President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski added ace starting pitcher David Price and All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. Red Sox fans are eager and excited for the upcoming season. Spring Training is supposed to be a period of optimism. Sandoval’s arrival, current weight, and aloof statements do not fit into that narrative.
That’s not good, but it is important to remember that spring training is supposed to be the period of time when veterans get into shape prior to the start of the regular season. Sandoval does not appear to be in good shape right now, that’s not good, but he does have six weeks to get into better shape.
As bad as all of this looks and sounds, the reality is that if Sandoval starts the season playing well this stuff won’t matter that much. Sandoval is paid to produce on the baseball diamond. He didn’t do that too well last season, and his apparent lack of concern is by no means comforting, but what if he does perform well this season?
We can’t really believe that what Sandoval says in February will have a real impact on how he hits and fields in April or May. It isn’t as if Sandoval stepped to the microphones and told everyone he was hoping to hit .220 and avoid making 30 errors this season.
The real issue here, is that this is the only issue. There are no wins, no losses, no significant injuries, no slumps, no ill-timed swings, no blown saves. As of Monday afternoon the entirety of the 2016 Red Sox season is a bunch of guys arriving in Fort Myers, working out, taking batting practice, throwing, catching and Pablo Sandoval.
Sandoval being overweight, and his general indifference to a career-worst 2015 are all poorly timed, and they most certainly could be previews of a season filled with disappointing plate appearances, nagging injuries, and media gaffes galore.
It is late February. There’s ample time for things to change, and unless this season is completely unlike any other baseball season ever, plenty of things will change between now and opening day.
Pablo Sandoval just started spring training 2016 in about as bad a fashion as possible. Nothing really counts yet, no stats, no wins, no losses, but the clock is ticking and all of Red Sox nation is watching.