The Boston Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval, this off-season, for his bat to do the talking. They didn’t expect, nor did Red Sox Nation, that his mouth would show some ‘Kung Fu’ of its own, so early.
Trash-talking, whether sports purists like it or not, is a part of the landscape. When you have grown men raised into playing a game for a living, they tend to define themselves by their abilities, and how those skills rank against other men. Between their maturity (or lack thereof) and summoning their inner Muhammad Ali, they try to get a mental edge over their opponents or other players for whom they have a grudge.
In Sandoval’s case, however, this strategy has become very public.
The 28-year-old Venezuelan has been very open about his time in San Francisco, where he won three of the last five World Series championships with the Giants. And, while the Giants have had little to say in return, former teammate Aubrey Huff vented about Sandoval on Facebook. ESPN Boston‘s Marley Rivera covered the collective incident recently, posting Huff’s comments:
"“I’m pretty sure their (sic) wasn’t a tear shed on behalf of all the players, and the coaches when he signed with Boston … It has always been about Pablo. He had the fans fooled but not the players! One of the biggest reasons he didn’t want to come back is because the Giants made him workout on the treadmill every day! Pretty sure that was a driving force for him! Never the less [sic] he could have always been a legend in San Fran but ego always will come in to play when it comes to Pablo!” – Aubrey Huff"
He goes on to suggest that Sandoval could not get along with Giants players like catcher Buster Posey and starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, the leaders of their team, and that it was Sandoval’s fault for the bad relationship.
Huff’s time in the majors ended in 2012, and is now an assistant baseball coach at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, California.
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According to Rivera, “Huff was reacting to a Bleacher Report story last week in which Sandoval asserted he left the Giants because they ‘disrespected’ his agent, and that ‘it is not about money, it is about how you treat the player.’ Sandoval also was quoted as saying he missed only Giants manager Bruce Bochy and outfielder Hunter Pence.”
After hearing about Huff’s comments, Sandoval replied to the media with, “Who is Aubrey Huff? … What is important here is to see where the person who made those comments is, and where I am now, that’s what counts.” When asked about how his own comments would reflect his time in San Francisco and if it would damage his relationship there, Sandoval said, “It’s nothing against the fans or against the players; fans always supported me in good and bad times.”
These comments could be a public-relations nightmare in any other career, regardless of whose fault it is. Only in a profession like baseball can someone bicker about former employers and colleagues, without too much backlash. In some cases, it can go far to proving that the person belongs in his new setting.
Again, in Sandoval’s case, it may prove to be a great public strategy.
WEEI.com, an internet publication of a popular radio station in Massachusetts, provided reporter Jerry Thornton some space to give his own opinion on the Sandoval-Huff spat:
"“I like him even more after hearing about this cyber beef he’s having with Aubrey Huff because it tells me something I didn’t know until now.Pablo Sandoval is one of us.” – Jerry Thornton, WEEI 93.7 FM"
Thornton further makes the connection between Sandoval’s handling of Huff’s comments and a Bostonian-style of linguistic assault. “Sandoval dropped [Huff] like he was playing a verbal version of Mike Tyson’s Punchout. And rather than give Huff the dignity of addressing his points, he just calls him out for being an incoherent nobody. Sandoval hasn’t even had a home game in Fenway yet and it’s like he’s been living here his whole life. Because that’s exactly how a Boston guy would’ve handled it.”
Mar 12, 2015; Bradenton, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) jogs after hitting a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Ah, the proverbial chip on the shoulder with a Beantown flair. It’s something unique in Boston, as anyone in and out of the city would tell you. If you go to New York City or Toronto, many people would tell you that Bostonians have a dramatic way of being obnoxious, when it comes to trash-talking. These people see it as a weakness, stemming from some form of inferiority complex, as if Boston is the little dog that tries barking loud enough to prove its toughness.
The key word there is ‘many’, not all. The people of Boston don’t need to act tough; they don’t need to act, at all. Cold winters, the American Revolution, the Boston Massacre, terrorism, and small pox, not to mention countless other struggles, have made Bostonians tough. You want to see trash-talking? Go find out what John and Samuel Adams said during the first Continental Congress of the United States, which was so juicy that they had to have a second meeting.
Bostonians do not see trash-talking as just a form of manipulation; they see it as one of their biggest strengths, bringing their own people together against a common enemy. They’ve had enough practice. They’ve been fighting with the colony from New York for centuries. If you pardon the slang, it’s how they roll. If you fit in, they have your back, no matter what. Sandoval’s comments struck a cord with many Bostonians, which means that Red Sox Nation will be supporting their new third baseman, at least until the regular season starts. Hey, part of trash-talking is backing it up. Ali didn’t get famous just by spouting off, did he?
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