Well, the San Francisco Bay Area is all-twitter these days – in both the old-fashioned and the modern sense – over the Giants’ recent re-signing of World Series Hero Pablo Sandoval. Or should I say of Pariah Pablo Sandoval.
Over the course of his 6+-years with the Giants, third baseman Sandoval kept up an average OPS of .811 OPS. He hit over .300 in three of those years, and he swatted 106 home runs. He seemed to have a playful, boyish disposition. He also clobbered three homers in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, so he’ll definitely be a part of Giants lore forever.
But he left the team bitterly after the 2014 season to sign a five-year, $95 million contract with the Red Sox. Over 2-1/2 seasons in Boston, though, he hit only a cumulative .237 amid multiple injuries that saw him playing in just 161 games. This year he was hitting only .212, with 4 homers and 12 RBIs, before the team jettisoned him for good.
Then the Giants picked him up.
If Sandoval returns successfully to the big leagues this year, the Giants have to pay him only the prorated portion of the major-league minimum (which is $535,000 in 2017).
And he may not even get back to the majors. As of this writing he is 1-7 at Class A San Jose, and the plan is for him to get to AAA Sacramento this week. Coach Bruce Bochy has said that the team hopes to get him 40 or 50 at-bats in the minors to see what he can do.
Pablo has been apologizing all over the place. He has no other choice, though. Let’s face it: most likely his career was summarily over. The Giants, probably out of nostalgia as much as anything else, are his only ticket back to the ballpark.
So he’s been reportedly apologizing to individual players, claiming that he has matured emotionally over the last few years, and publicly talking about things like fan support and team chemistry – whereas when he bolted for the Sox after the 2014 season, he whined that he was furious about his contract negotiations and that the only Giants he’d miss would be outfielder Hunter Pence and Bruce Bochy.
Still, he’s now saying that he regrets not having re-signed with the Giants back in late 2014. And maybe he’s sincere. He had to have been humbled – in the true sense of the word, not in the sense that the word has been over- and misused today – by his atrocious stint in Beantown.
And here’s the thing. The Giants have absolutely nothing to lose except for that prorated league minimum. The Red Sox, meanwhile, will eat the rest of Sandoval’s entire (overvalued) contract.
“This is pretty much a free look at a player who’s done some good things here, and if he could help us get on track, it’s a good thing,” says Bochy.
Many of us have been speculating for some time that current Giants third baseman Eduardo Nuñez will be traded before the impending deadline. That means the team will be left with rookie third baseman Christian Arroyo, who flamed out quickly in the majors after an auspicious start, was sent back down to the minors to hone his batting skills, and promptly injured his hand twice. The second injury was a broken hand that will shelve him for two months. Alternate third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang was just sent down last week. Until “third baseman of the future” Arroyo is ready for his big-league return (and he will be, but not anytime soon), the Giants will find themselves without a regular infielder at that position should Nuñez be traded.
So it all makes sense, really – certainly from a business standpoint. And maybe from a baseball standpoint, too. I’ve watched Pablo’s recent interviews and he really does appear to have lost weight, for once. Maybe he’s actually in decent shape. And since the Giants are not on track for a postseason of any sort, all they need is someone to fill in at the corner until next year. With Sandoval’s tendency to get injured, and his poor showing in the minors so far, our expectations are necessarily low. On the other hand, if the 30-year-old can hit the occasional home run (a rare sight for Giants fans this year), maybe that’s enough.
Last week the team’s streak of 530 consecutive sellouts finally ended. It was the longest sellout streak in National League history. The fans are getting restless.
So maybe his acquisition is also meant to get the fans excited – whether they love him or hate him.
Or maybe it’s superstition; after all, since he departed, the Giants have not returned to the World Series, and their domination (if you can call it that) appears to be over and done.
My take on the whole thing, as a fan, is that Giants management typically know what they’re doing, they can spot a bargain when it’s in front of them, and they have a sense of loyalty and history. They’ve undoubtedly noted Pablo’s contrition and his weight loss. He may well be a minor asset as we finish out the season.
But I personally can’t forgive him for the ways in which he skewered the ownership and his teammates. I wasn’t a Panda-hat wearer then, and I definitely won’t be one now. Besides, word is that not all of his teammates are thrilled with his potential return, and I’m not sure he’ll give a lift to the clubhouse.
This isn’t about me, though. This is about the business of baseball. And it certainly isn’t going to prevent me from going out to the Yard. Loyalty is loyalty.
Yes, loyalty is loyalty, Pablo. I hope you’ve learned that lesson.