Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval struggled in 2015, but will a new workout regimen and diet help reverse his and Boston’s fortunes next year?
If you’re anything like me, your interest in personal dietary restrictions doesn’t extend far outside a selective comfort zone. Fortunately, despite being advanced in so many ways, science still hasn’t fully come to terms with what is actually good for you or otherwise, and in what way. Take wine for example. Scientific studies have heralded a glass of wine per day as helping reduce the chance for coronary heart attack and stroke for decades, but, recently, they found you can throw Alzheimer’s and dementia on that pile too. One wonders then how much benefit could be wrought from two glasses of wine each day, but I digress.
For troubled Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo “Panda” Sandoval however, it seems the wine diet, the burger diet, or the pizza diet may be put on hold in favour of a more traditional method of losing weight, perhaps involving bamboo shoots. Under the tenure of Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, Sandoval has started a new daily regime of diet and exercise over the offseason, as reported by Peter Gammons:
"“He (Dombrowski) listened to (Red Sox GM Mike) Hazan and others who strongly believe Pablo Sandoval’s two-a-day workouts in the Dominican and his new diet chef will result in his 2014 form.”"
Sandoval being large is nothing new but he had always resisted the urges to cut back, both with the San Francisco Giants and under former Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington, which was justified, at least in part, by his continued performances at the plate. Then 2015 happened.
You see, Sandoval’s annual performances have been somewhat slumping since the beginning. From the dizzying heights of a 2011 line of .315/.357/.552 to the only very good .279/.324/.415 in 2014, Panda’s output has seen a steady, though not major by any means, decline. But 2015 was simply a disaster. After signing with the Red Sox in the offseason, he would finish the year with a dire .245/.292/.366 line and showed marked signs of even failing to make the basic defensive plays at third base. His WAR for the year was a shocking -2.0, removing him from the lineup was the classic case of addition by subtraction and unsurprisingly he would sit out more games than year since 2012.
Unfortunately for Boston, Sandoval is equally as undesirable by other teams as he is for the Red Sox. Whether by his middling performances or his embarrassing suspension, for liking a latino lovely’s Instagram photo during game time, Sandoval’s value has never been lower. With that in mind, it’s no surprise Dombrowski came down hard on Sandoval to get in shape. For a start, he’s done the same thing with Hanley Ramirez and he ultimately fell in line. In Sandoval’s case there should, in theory, be even more to be gained from attempting to get him fit.
Sandoval is quite a bit younger than Ramirez and while his performance may have been decreasing annually, there’s more likelihood that 2015 was simply an outlying bad campaign from which he can potentially rebound. If nothing else, Sandoval at least has a position he can be semi-competent in, 2015 not withstanding. Ramirez isn’t welcome anywhere on the park, making his value to the other teams, and indeed, the Red Sox at present, minimal at best. Dombrowski may be hoping to whip Panda into shape and test the waters nearer to the end of the offseason. If such a strategy isn’t unthinkable with Ramirez then all the more so for Sandoval.
That said, there’s no getting round it, Boston will have to eat some of that massive $95 million contract to have anybody interested, and they may well just choose to diet themselves and forego the financial after-taste.
Even so, it does no harm to try their luck with having Sandoval diet for longer than his bathroom/Instagram breaks. His performance can only improve and, unlike with Ramirez, there isn’t a solid candidate such as Travis Shaw to take over. Though careful observers will note that the Red Sox did try their hand at Shaw in third base in winter ball, but the experiment ended early by injury and that only leaves question marks Dombrowski arguably doesn’t want going into a year in which he seeks contention.
It’s hard to say how Dombrowski will ultimately deal with the Panda problem going forward, only one of many toxic assets he inherited from his predecessor. This much is for sure, Sandoval knows that for his career’s sake, if not the team’s, that he needs to start caring just a little bit more. A diet is only the first step.