Friday, February 26, 2016

On The Self-Discipline (Or Lack Thereof) Of The Panda

by Mark Lawrence, International Editor
Sydney, Australia—The time between the seasons grows ever shorter and as we approach the eagerly anticipated 2016 season. Instead of daydreaming about post-season duck boat parades, I’m struggling to imagine our tubby third baseman making those spectacular diving grabs you somehow seem to associate with the position.

When the Red Sox signed Flablo Lardavol (AKA Pablo Sandoval) in late 2014, I actually said did-whut-now? Said it out loud. Is this that fat guy on the Giants whose at-bat shenanigans make Nomar look calm and at ease? They can’t have signed him to play third base! That’s a position that requires – scratch that, demands – a degree of physical fluidity found only in the slim! As Matt Vasgersian tells me every time I switch the PlayStation on – That’s Why They Call It The Hot Corner!

I think the fact that old Flablo had had a pretty good post season record with the Giants somehow colored the thinking of the Yawkey Way Brain Trust (YWBT). The fact that he hit three home runs in a single World Series game a mere two years prior must’ve had them salivating or something. Okay, okay, I know he was a pretty good ballplayer from time to time - but surely they must’ve known about all that behind-the-scenes Jenny Craig-ery that went on over by the Bay to ensure that he stayed viable. This all goes back to 2010, and the first recorded concerns about his expanding tummy and the slump that ensued.  Giants’ management, being the geniuses that they are, acted decisively at the start of 2011 by greenlighting Operation Panda —I’m not kidding—a concerted effort to help Sandoval shed at least thirty pounds.  The plan worked out just fine, with Pablo’s numbers returning to his previously professional level as his waistline receded and everything was peachy.  For a while, at least. And then, well, he got fat again. Hey - it’s a vicious cycle.

There’s no doubt that Pablo Sandoval can play professional baseball and play it at an impressive level – when he’s got himself into the right shape to do it. There seems to be a lack of self-discipline here and when one considers what the guy is actually capable of, his apparent indifference to the problem is infuriating. To arrive at Spring Training with the adipose equivalent of five flabby bowling balls hanging off your hips is both arrogant and insulting. And blithely asserting that you don’t weigh-in or that weight isn’t a problem is asking way too much of both management and fans. And if Sandoval believes he can have himself a banner year with a gut like that, then my own Buddha-belly is absolutely nothing for my doctor to be concerned about.

Flablo has eaten himself into a corner here at the start of the 2016 Red Sox Comeback Tour – if he plays reasonably well, then this issue will recede. But the minute he makes his first inevitable mistake, either at the plate or over on the third bag, that deafening howl you’ll hear will be for his head on a plate and his fat butt on the bus. And he will have only himself to blame.