Debating whether the Carl Crawford signing or the Pablo Sandoval signing is the worst in Red Sox history is like debating whether it’s worse dying by gunshot or stabbing. Most Red Sox fans hated the Sandoval signing from the start and once again, it was a case of Red Sox ownership putting the marketing side of baseball over the actual play on the field.
Sandoval had become a cult hero in San Francisco during the first seven seasons of his career. He won three World Series with the Giants, and his rotund physique, big smile, and “Kung Fu Panda” nickname made him a fan favorite. He was a very good but not great regular season player who always seemed to elevate his play in the postseason.
With all of that being said, he wasn’t worth the five-year, $90 million deal the Red Sox gave him in the winter of 2014. Red Sox owners were surely seeing dollar signs from marketing Panda t-shirts and stuffed animals, but fans and the media had questions about Sandoval’s conditioning and regular-season numbers being worth the commitment.
It turns out the fans and media were right. Sandoval played in 125 games in 2015 and hit .245 with 10 home runs, 47 RBI, a .292 OBP, and a .658 OPS. It was the worst season of his career and included being suspended by the team after he was caught looking at photos of scantily clad women on Instagram during a game.
It turns out his 2016 would be even worse. The Red Sox front office and manager John Farrell spent the offseason raving about how Sandoval got into the best shape of his life in the offseason. However, when he showed up to spring training the visual evidence showed otherwise.
He was noticeably overweight, even more than before, and the team was roundly mocked for claiming that Sandoval had gotten down to “17% body fat” (one article at the time wondered if the Red Sox were dyslexic and really meant “71%”). He only played three games in 2016 before missing the rest of the season due to shoulder surgery.
Adding insult to injury, during one of the games he played in he took a massive swing, missed a pitch, and had his belt burst in what has become the defining moment of his Red Sox career. Coming back in spring training in 2017, he lost the starting third baseman job to rookie Travis Shaw and only appeared in 32 games (hitting .212 with 4 home runs and 12 RBI) before the Red Sox released him in July 2017.
Sandoval ended up going back to the Giants where he’s actually played fairly well. The Red Sox just finished paying his contract off despite the fact that he hasn’t played for them in almost three years. Not only was Pablo Sandoval not cut out for playing in Boston mentally, physically he was even worse. That alone might push this one ahead of the Crawford deal as the worst ever.