The Red Sox signed Sandoval back in 2014 to be the third basemen of the present and future after Will Middlebrooks was a disappointment. The three time World Series Champion signed a five year 95 million dollar contract with Boston. He was the MVP of the World Series in 2012 and the Red Sox had big expectations.
The first two years of the deal have been an absolute trainwreck. In 2015, Sandoval gained weight throughout the season and had his worst statistical season to date. He hit just .245 with a .292 on base percentage, and.366 slugging percentage. He did have 10 homers, but did not live up to the hype in his first year.
Not only did the Panda have a bad offensive season, his defense was even worse. He ranked dead last in defensive metrics among qualified third basemen in the league. Before coming over to the Red Sox, he was never a defensive specialist, but was at least average.
Heading into 2016, all eyes were on Panda to bounce back from his embarrassing first year. He came into spring training out of shape AGAIN. The Red Sox put him on a weight training regime, but he did not oblige. Sandoval did not get the message. In an interview with ESPN, Sandoval stated, “I don’t weigh in at all. I just do my work, try to do everything I can out there. I don’t weight at all in the whole offseason” when asked about his weight.
After a rocky start to his second season in Boston, it got even worse. Sandoval was benched in favor of Travis Shaw. Manager John Farrell said in a press conference during the last spring training game, “ for right now, to start the season this is what is best for our team.”
To his credit, Sandoval took the benching in stride, but still was the talk of the town entering the year. On opening day, the Fenway faithful gave a nice reception of boos rather than cheers. Then, when he finally played in a game against the Blue Jays in Toronto, Panda swung out of his belt and broke it. A nightmare of a 2015 season now spiraled into 2016.
Just soon after, Panda was put on the disabled list with a shoulder strain on April 13th. In May, the team announced that he would be out for the season after having surgery on a torn labrum. Sandoval quickly became labeled as the worst free agent signing in Red Sox’s history after his two year sample size.
2017: A New Year
With low expectations now heading into 2017, Pablo has been going about his business the right way. He came into camp in great shape and worked his tail off to get ready for the upcoming season. He worked out with fellow all stars such as Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Gonzalez to get ready.
The team also made two surprising trades that opened the door for the Panda to claim what was his just two seasons ago, third base. Both Shaw and highly rated prospect Yoan Moncada, were traded away in the offseason. Both those players seemed to be in line to compete for the job with Sandoval. Now that they are gone, Sandoval can just go out and play without looking over his shoulder.
Without the extra pressure, Panda is delivering. It is a small sample size of only nine games, but he is hitting .370 with a homer and seven RBI’s. He is even getting praise from teammates in camp. Eduardo Rodriguez said to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that “ he looks like a new person. He looks way more comfortable. He’s playing like a little kid.” Other also have been impressed with how Sandoval has looked this season as well. 2017 is looking to be a whole new year for the Panda.
Outlook for 2017
Now with all this said, Sandoval is considered a bounce back candidate. Other players in the past have shown they can succeed after brutal years in this market. The closest player I associate with Pablo is John Lackey. Both won and performed in big games before coming to Boston. Signed for long term with lackluster starts to their Red Sox careers. Lackey helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013 and all was forgotten. I am looking for Sandoval to do the same. Also, Rick Porcello and Hanley Ramirez have both turned it around as well. Panda was able to witness these two first hand and ask for advice.
As everyone knows, The Red Sox lineup is stacked heading into this season. This is the perfect situation for him. He will be a much needed boost to the end of the lineup and inot have middle of the order pressure. By batting him lower in the lineup, he will not be leaned on to produce at a high rate. I believe this will help him on his way to becoming AL Comeback Player of the year.
As he said in an interview with Mauren Mulen from the Associated Press, “You have to focus on things you can do, focus on the season, focus on trying to help this team win, try to get the pressure off of you. This is going to be a good match for me. When I get that situation, I need to do it on the field, not with talking. So I’m just going to do my job, try and help my team win games”.
That’s right Pablo, just do your job as Coach Belichick would say. Because if you do that, you will prove all the doubters wrong during the 2017 season.