Here is my Monday column on Pablo Sandoval.
SAN FRANCISCO – Here’s the question of the year for the Giants: What should they do with Pablo Sandoval?
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mets, the 26-year-old All-Star third baseman was 3-for-his-past-37. And he looks way overweight, more so than usual. The mechanics of his swing are out of whack and he can’t field his position – he already has committed 10 errors this season.
He was batting .289 on June 8 when the Giants put him on the Disabled List with a strained left foot. Since his return on June 24, he’s been awful.
“He’s going to come around,” Bruce Bochy told Bay Area reporters in the Giants’ dugout three hours before Monday night’s game. “I thought he swung the bat better his last start. He had two games of rehab in Vegas. It probably was not enough, but he’s a good hitter. If you look at where we’re at right now, we have to let him play through it. He’s one of our guys. If we’re going to have success, we need our guys to do what we hope and expect, and that’s the case with Pablo. You’ve got to stay behind him.”
Here’s where the Giants were at before Monday night’s game with the Mets: They were 40-47. They had lost 11 of their past 13. They were in fourth place in the NL West and 6½ games behind the first-place Diamondbacks.
Bochy is partially right. If the Giants are going to come back and win their division, they won’t do it without Sandoval. They need him. They don’t have a better third baseman.
But Bochy, a first-rate manager, is wrong: Sandoval probably will not snap out of this slump.
The Giants should end his season right now.
“When they decide they’re not going to make the playoffs – and I don’t think they’re going to make the playoffs this season,” said a Major League scout who requested anonymity, “they need to send a message to Sandoval: You need to recommit yourself to training.”
The Giants’ media guide lists Sandoval at 240 pounds, but the scout estimates Sandoval currently weighs 290.
“Right now, he looks uncomfortable and incapable of doing the things he needs to do on offense and defense,” the scout said.
Sandoval has gone through this before. He lost his starting job in 2010 when he grew too large. After the season, Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean publically said Sandoval had to trim down or he wouldn’t make the Major League roster in 2011. So, he trimmed down, had a good season and the Giants rewarded him (prematurely?) with a three-year, $17.15 million contract extension.
“The way they handled things with Sandoval was wrong altogether and I don’t know how they’re going to fix it,” said the scout. “It all started when they didn’t put any weight clauses in his contract.
“I saw him work out in Stockton right before he came off the disabled list in June. After batting practice, he waddled down the first base line in his orange warm-up jacket. It was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen.
“Then he waddled to the outfield to run sprints, and I saw him run two. A scout I was with said Sandoval ran three. So, OK, I’ll give him three. Still, he was about to fall over after he ran them. And those sprints weren’t foul-pole-to-foul-pole, either. They were about 40 yards.
“After he caught his breath, he waddled to the infield to take ground balls, he took about seven or eight and that was it. It was pathetic.”
The Giants should not threaten to send Sandoval down to the minors as they threatened in 2010. He’s a World Series MVP and he’s a millionaire and he’s a star. It would crush him emotionally to send him down to the minors and the Giants would lose him forever.
The Giants want him in San Francisco but they need to monitor every second of his training.
Sandoval needs to lose about 50 pounds, and he won’t lose it playing every day. The Giants should bench him. Or, better yet, put him back on the disabled list. Tell people his foot still hurts. Get him a personal trainer. Save him from humiliation.
“The Giants have to massage Sandoval,” said the scout. “They have to tell him he can be a Hall of Famer if he gets in shape and stays in shape. The Giants need to find someone in the organization who can send this message to Sandoval without him taking it the wrong way.”
This needs to happen right now. The Giants need to get Sandoval ready for next year.
And they need to save his career because he can’t save it himself.
Grant Cohn writes two sports columns per week for the Press Democrat’s website. He also writes the “Inside the 49ers” blog. Follow him on Twitter @grantcohn.