PANDA'S GIRTH IS NO LONGER A LAUGHING MATTER FOR GIANTS FANS
When Pablo Sandoval is hitting his weight is really a non-issue. He turns into loveable Panda. The fuzzy third-baseman who hits lasers into the gaps and there is nary a peep over his tremendous girth. But, when the Panda stops hitting, the proverbial weight of the world surrounds the San Francisco Giants third sacker and all of sudden it becomes a problem.
Well folks, its a problem.
When Sandoval went on the disabled list several weeks ago Giants fans were hoping he would come back a new man. He came back a new man alright, there is a lot more of him. Sandoval clearly didn't spend his rehab on the stair-master or at least getting in a little bit of cardio. He is now tipping the scales at near rotund levels which clearly puts his Giants future in doubt.
The Giants are not about to invest a multi-year contract on a guy who can't take care of his body. I am not raising a new issue here. This is fodder for Bay Area sports talk hosts. And, lets be clear, this isn't cute. Sandoval is not big boned, he is not the loveable Panda when he is eating his way out of the game. There is no doubt the guy can rake. He can hit like nobody's business. But, he is not a physical freak like Detroit's Prince Fielder. Fielder is overweight, yet for his entire big league career he hasn't gotten hurt. He has been one of the most durable ballplayers in the game, despite his puffy attributes. Fielder is just a baseball/athletic anomoly. Panda is not.
Sandoval is constantly hurt. Breaking his hamate bone in his hand was a fluke a few years ago, but last year he pulled his hamstring when stretching at first base. He has had numerous muscle pulls and strains so far in his short big league career. And, one would have to be naive to think that his lack of conditioning didn't have something to do with it.
His enormous belly is also causing problems defensively. He simply can't get to some balls that should be easy outs ranging to ones' left or right. With the excess pounds he doesn't have the lateral movement to make the plays a big league third baseman needs to. And, we will start seeing teams bunting on the Panda if he keeps playing third base. The man simply can't bend down to field the ball.
The Giants front office has been patient. They sent him to Panda Camp a few years back and he dropped 35 pounds in the off-season. He then proceeded to go home for three weeks and gain 15 of those pounds back. If he wasn't so important to the Giants present and future, no one would care. But, we all believe if he just took a little better care of his body he could be a special player. While his waist line increases, his baseball talents are being wasted.
Its not too late for Pablo Sandoval, but the clock is ticking and patience has to be growing thin. Thin, an odd word to say when talking about The Panda. His weight has gone from cutesy, to disconcerting and unless he acts fast the Giants may have no other option but to trade him and get whatever they can for him.