No One Should Poke at Sandoval’s Weight

When the Red Sox arrived in Fort Myers last week to begin spring training one thing that almost everyone immediately focused on was Pablo Sandoval’s weight. A less-than-flattering photo showing Sandoval’s gut hanging over his shorts in mid throw flooded social media, making Red Sox fans scowl with concern that Panda’s weight could lead to another poor season. Not only is it unfair to body shame Sandoval, it also contributes absolutely nothing positive to the Red Sox as they prepare for the 2016 season. Red Sox nation should instead throw its own weight behind Panda and the rest of the team in order to avoid a third straight disastrous season and bring another World Series Championship back to Boston.

Sandoval's weight

Sandoval claims that his body weight is now at 17%, down from 23% last season, putting him in the “good” category and above most acceptable levels. If these numbers are true, then the last thing anyone should focus on is ridiculing Sandoval’s weight, especially going into a season where morale is going to be essential for the team. While Sandoval will probably always be on the stockier side, history shows us that weight gain doesn’t always mean it’s all over for a player. Take Babe Ruth for instance.

Ruth faced a similar, yet much more dangerous, scenario in 1925 when his weight ballooned to 260 lbs in the off-season. After supposedly binging on too many sodas and hot dogs before a pre-season game (some suggest alcohol was involved) Ruth was hospitalized for weeks in what became known as “the bellyache heard ’round the world.” Fortunately, the following season Ruth worked hard to shed the weight, after which he would go on to lead the American League in runs, walks, and home runs for the next three seasons. A key factor to keep in mind here is that Ruth was 30 years old at the time he turned it around and lost the excess weight, the same age that Sandoval will turn this year. If history is any indication of what is to come, since Panda is already working hard to stay fit, then the 2016 season could definitely shape up to be one of his best. Early reports from spring training suggest that Sandoval is prepping well for what could become a strong season for him with Red Sox manager John Farrrell stating this week, “His righthanded swing is much more consistent than what we saw at any time last year.”

Sandoval doesn’t need put-downs over his weight. Instead, Sandoval needs encouragement. When he starts to play well then fans need to let him know with cheers. Sandoval needs to know that we have confidence in him (I do). A little encouragement can go a very long way and in Sandoval’s case, he’ll need all he can get. Cheers, not finger pointing, is what will help Panda and the Sox capture another World Series title.

Red Sox Spring Training Brings Uncertainty for Team

In the glory days of Theo Epstein, when the lineup was dominated by Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, you knew what the Red Sox were, and their goal was always familiar. During that time, Boston was one of the few teams in professional sports that existed within a window of perennial contention. Red Sox Nation expected success, to a point where the regular season was almost an afterthought.

However, since 2010, the Red Sox have slowly lost that distinctive identity as their gripred sox spring training on constant postseason involvement has unraveled. This is the seventh consecutive season where uncertainty has clouded our judgment, the seventh straight spring where question marks reign. We simply don’t know what to expect from this franchise anymore.

That trend is prevalent throughout baseball in general. The increase in revenue sharing, coupled with more efficient defense and steroid testing, has flattened the field and created a vacuum of expectation. No team is guaranteed to qualify for the postseason, as the Washington Nationals and Seattle Mariners showed last year, while unheralded teams can triumph against all odds, as the Red Sox discovered in 2013. The additional wildcard in each league has led to teams aiming for 85 wins, rather than 90, as the quality of play has generally been diluted.

Moreover, baseball’s waning popularity when compared to the NFL has created a different atmosphere around the Red Sox. This team continues to inspire passion around the world, but the excitement has cooled somewhat from the manic 2000s, when the players could barely cough or sigh without opening the floodgates to reams of analysis. A gradual loss of intensity is definitely tangible, as the Red Sox attempt to rediscover their soul.

This year, they certainly have the ammunition to go far. David Price is the elite ace many people have yearned for, while Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts represent the next generation of Boston superstars. Yet, the uncertainty surrounding players like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, coupled with performance concerns over established veterans such as Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz, makes this a difficult team to read. Right now, we would all be forgiven for not totally being on board.

However, such pessimism should be reserved for another day. Pitchers and catchers reporting for Red Sox spring training is a joyous occasion, evoking connotations of eternal hope and optimism. So, let’s try to move on and enjoy the moment. For one day, let’s forget statistics and logistics, and just focus on the return of baseball, and the warm glow it provides.

Go Red Sox!