Today marked the end of a brief and tenuous tenure for the Boston Red Sox and former World Series MVP third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval, who was designated for assignment last week, was officially released by Boston this afternoon after playing in just 161 games over three seasons with the Red Sox.
After signing a 5-year, $95 million deal in 2015, Sandoval woefully under-performed both at the plate and with the glove, failed to remain in adequate playing shape and was disinterested even during games. Sandoval hit just .237/.286/.360 during his time with Boston with just 14 homers and committed 21 errors with a very limited range defensively.
The contract will no doubt go down as the worst in Boston sports history, even worse than the Carl Crawford contract that Boston unloaded in blockbuster deal in August of 2012. Boston is on the hook for nearly $50 million that was remaining on his deal. From the outset, the marriage between the two sides was never going to work. As much as we’d all love to go back in time and stop Boston from signing the former All-Star, there wasn’t much that was going to change their minds.
Larry Lucchino, the then President of the Boston Red Sox who handled both the business and the baseball before ownership decided it was best for business to separate both entities from each other, had visions of Panda hats and merchandise flooding the streets of Boston. After all, Boston had one overweight (arguable) star in David Ortiz, why can’t they add another superstar to hit behind him in the lineup? The problem is “Panda” had to play the field every day, didn’t hit for power and got too complacent too fast after getting his big payday.
Well, hindsight is 20/20, but many such as the guys at Felger & Mazz of 98.5 The Sports Hub called this a disaster almost immediately. First off, you’re paying $20M per season for a guy that doesn’t hit for power, doesn’t have the best defensive range, isn’t in great shape and is coming off his third World Series championship in five years. What could possibly go wrong? This after a team in Boston had just pissed off their ace in Jon Lester who was ready to walk in free agency, had a glaring hole at third base and had cash to spend.
Instead of paying Lester and going with the cheaper and probably more efficient alternative in Will Middlebrooks or Garin Cecchini at the time, Lucchino opted to spend big on Sandoval and bring the Panda to Boston. The marketing “geniuses” over on Yawkey Way quickly got to work creating new ways to incorporate Panda’s into all things Red Sox. In fact, they even had a giant Panda with Sandoval at his introductory press conference.
The Boston Sports media sharks quickly went to work, as they do, and got on Sandoval’s case for his weight and size after he showed up to his first Spring Training with his new team about 20 pounds heavier than the team anticipated. Then, when a very unflattering photo of Sandoval appeared on social media, the Sandoval hype train came to a screeching halt as he was eviscerated by media and fans alike and was very defensive even calling out the writer who posted the photo and attacking his physical condition personally.
That was just the tipping point as Sandoval was also suspended in 2015 by the team after being caught liking photos of women on Instagram during a game. The plump third baseman battled a slew of injuries in his opening season and missed almost all of 2016 with season-ending shoulder surgery after losing his job at third base to Travis Shaw. Then for some reason unbeknownst to you or I, Dave Dombrowski traded Shaw who had a fantastic rookie campaign to Milwaukee and opted to go with Sandoval as the everyday starter at the position.
Now, here we are in mid-July of 2017, Sandoval has been released and all of his money absorbed by the team, the Red Sox still have a vacancy at third base, Larry Lucchino works in Pawtucket as their President, General Manager Ben Cherington resigned and Boston is in first place.
Sandoval has reportedly agreed to sign back with the San Francisco Giants on a minor-league deal trying to rekindle the ability he once possessed, but it was clear both sides needed to go their separate ways and get the rotten taste out of their mouths from this terrible deal and brutal fit. You can’t blame the Giants for taking another shot, after all they aren’t responsible for a dime of that nearly $50 million owed to Sandoval, but what a tragic tale of the Panda in Boston this turned out to be.
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