What are the San Francisco Giants going to do about Pablo Sandoval, or what I like to think of as the Plight of the Panda? How long is San Francisco going to wait before it packs up the Panda masks and sends him on to another team (preferably in the American League) for two pitching prospects and cash considerations? After all, Pablo’s not hitting for either power or average, he was charged with four errors in April, though it could have been six or seven in the early going, and he has made it known that he is seeking an exorbitant salary after his current contract expires. The whole thing seems preposterous, in light of his lack of success, and the natives are getting restless. Just listen to KNBR Sports-Talk.
I’m not just speaking about a batting average hovering around .175, or the sense that his mind is not always as evident as his Panda-ness, out there at third base. I’m talking specifically about starting off the season with a record at the plate, any time Pablo drew two strikes on the count, of 0-42. Stats often can be twisted around to suit the purpose of the speaker, but I’m sorry. Zero for Jackie Robinson’s number shows a baseball mind that is either drifting lazily in the center of the Mississippi River, or white-water rafting down the Colorado River.
It’s certainly not present on the field of play. Guys who have their heads in the game and draw two strikes, shorten up on the bat. They may change the way they grip the bat, possibly loosening their fingers, and they try to put the ball in play with a quicker, more compact swing. Protecting the plate becomes the main objective, so if you are Pablo, you are one hundred percent focused on staying inside the strike zone. Does that sound like Sandoval to you?
No, Pablo Sandoval is a free swinger. We have known that from the start and accepted it. No amount of persuasion by coaches has done much to change that, and all that can be done is to hope for the occasional walk. But that’s when the going is smooth and the hits just keep on coming. When the double play balls and the strikeouts start to pile up it’s time for a change. And when you think change with Pablo Sandoval, it begins with changing that lunging, wild-eyed flailing, and another trot back to the dugout.
What’s the answer? There are multiple questions: (1) What’s wrong? (2) Will it get right? (3) WHEN? 4) What about the contract?
Nothing is “wrong”; it’s just baseball. Guys are streaky and sometimes a streak encompasses a whole month. It’s hard to deal with, but if your team is succeeding and you don’t become a negative presence in the dugout, you move on. My guess is that Pablo will balance the scales with a month in which he is so hot, he takes Player of the Month. I’m guessing September.
So Pablo will get it right. He has been too good of a hitter for too long to have suddenly lost it. As to when, again, baseball is a finicky mistress. All I can say is it usually occurs when you least expect it. And as for keeping a positive outlook in the dugout, Pablo has remained Pablo. If you doubt that, follow the camera. If the Panda were to retreat to himself, in some corner of the bench, the camera would seek him out. Panda always draws the camera.
What about the contract? Out of my league-I leave that to Brian Sabean. If he deems Pablo Sandoval worth what his agent demands, then the Giants will pay it. If not, then there will be no contract tendered. I have always maintained that Sabean is the best there is and the Giants are lucky to have him; therefore, I leave him to his job.
The bottom line is that Pablo Sandoval is a desirable commodity, both in performance and personality, and we must remain patient. He will not disappoint you. It’s about confidence and all he needs to do is go four for four, with ten total bases, and the engine will quit sputtering. Baseball is baseball and the Panda is the epitome of entertainment.
Just remember. If the Giants can be in full possession of first place going into May, with the Panda in a funk, imagine where they will be with him on a tear. It’s a tantalizing thought, enough for me to put aside the talk of contract extensions and think about season extensions-right into the postseason.