Pablo Sandoval is now faced with a choice and how he responds will ultimately be a road to ruin or redemption.
Pablo Sandoval of the Boston Red Sox is a gold mine that never has a vein that runs dry for an opportunity to write about individual failings and how it may impact the next season. The Red Sox are stuck with an onerous contract for a player of now questionable ability and even more questionable character issues.
The weight is certainly the key ingredient in the Sandoval debate – if there even is a debate. The pictures that surfaced in spring training of 2015 have been repeated in spring training of 2016. The miserable defensive performance and lackluster offensive display of 2015 are now history and that history is on a path for a repeat performance.
Finger pointing is a skill I have become rather adept at and so have just about anyone else when it comes to Sandoval. The history was there and the Red Sox assumed a certain risk factor in Sandoval’s signing and – unfortunately – the naysayers of this free agent signing have been 100% correct. If anyone in senior management needed a reason for firing Ben Cherington then Panda was it.
The fat jokes are certainly fun and the lack of respect Panda has for his profession is appalling, but dig deeper and he has a serious problem that goes well beyond the scope of baseball. This is really a life issue and he will eventually go the same way as Joe Foy.
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Sandoval is addicted to food to the same extent a heroin or meth addict is addicted to their drugs. I love food with a special attraction to foods that need to be visited with moderation and I can do that. I can step away from the butter pecan ice cream, fried (fill in the blank) and a hundred other things. I can eat salads, fruits, vegetables and ignore the breads I love – Panda cannot.
I have no idea how he has tried to address this issue. Sandoval has lost weight in the past and put it right back on. His obligation is to himself and his family and to his employers and Sandoval has failed miserably. The Red Sox – no doubt – have approached this issue with Sandoval without being overtly public. At this juncture the team has the resources to absorb a bad contract and certainly have talent capable of playing third base. Sandoval will have a very short life based on actuarial tables unless he somehow manages to alter his lifestyle and that should be the real issue at hand.
Panda may put on the veneer of being defiant, bombastic, arrogant and self-centered, but alone in his thoughts he knows EXACTLY what circumstances he is in. At Fenway, his life will be a living hell if the team starts to slide and probably if it does not slide. The Fenway crowd can be as merciless as any in baseball, and just as Jim Eisenreich who knows about that.
The clubhouse and the field will also be a test for Sandoval as players, both friend and foe will be commenting with sharp barbs especially on any negative play. Sandoval will be tested emotionally like no player in recent Red Sox memory.
When the venom is all placed aside, the fact is clear – Sandoval has an addiction issue and anyone who has had an addiction or witnessed it in others – drugs, alcohol, food, smoking or any other self-destructive behavior – has to have a certain degree of empathy for him.
Sandoval has all the necessary resources at his disposal to address his personal health issue. The enormous compensation package certainly allows for a nutritionist, personal chef and a trainer to be available 24/7 and several other prominent athletes have such a staff to ensure that their career can be extended or maintained.
Panda appears on the surface to be in full denial mode on his health and as he approaches age 30 it is certainly paramount to reverse what apparently has been a long and documented trend, but the ultimate responsibility falls squarely on Sandoval. The issue is now – to me – beyond baseball and one of personal concern for a player of notable talent who is currently on the road to ruin and needs to make a serious effort to turn onto the road to redemption.