Red Sox DH talks make Pablo Sandoval a footnote

Boston Red Sox veteran Pablo Sandoval has had his ear buzzing, since his injury, that the team may sign a free agent DH. Why is all the talk not for him?

Look around. Check all of the Red Sox media coverage. Read the headlines. Examine the hot-stove pages that churn more and more baseball rumors. Boston, apparently, needs a new designated hitter since their face of the franchise David Ortiz has retired after 20 seasons. Two decades of dominance at the plate. Nothing new, as it’s been the same coverages for the entire 2016 season. Speculation of Big Papi leaving led reporters around the world to discuss options for his possible replacement.

Names like Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Beltran, and even current Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez have been bandied about in the bubbling cauldron that is the MLB rumor laboratory.

With all of that in mind, think of yourself as Pablo Sandoval.

In 2017, you will be in year three of a five-year contract worth $95 million. Your career worth to date, excluding endorsements, is valued at $53 million already. You have been to two All-Star games. You have three World Series championship rings. One of those rings included a Most Valuable Player award in the 2012 playoffs. At 30 years of age, you have already proven many critics wrong about you in your days with the San Francisco Giants and have the rewards of that success at your fingertips.

So, why is everyone so gosh darn hyper about who can play the DH role? Haven’t you done enough to prove yourself? It’s not like the Red Sox have lost faith in you. They just paid you a boatload of cash and are following it up with even more money until 2019 to stay with the club. That’s got to mean something, right?

Apr 10, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Well, if you’re Sandoval, that faith went right out the door in 2015. When it tried to get back in, the critics slammed it pretty shut in 2016. They just didn’t put the lock on the door yet.

After winning the last of three World Series championships in 2014, Sandoval signed with the Red Sox with a bit of drama following him. There were rumors of issues between Sandoval and members of the Giants. Instead of settling them, Sandoval took his talents to Boston to start fresh in a new city. What Red Sox Nation realized was that a three-time champion doesn’t mean that he will instantly become a success in a different environment.

Sandoval came to the 2015 spring training overweight. Granted, overweight baseball players are a matter of perspective; however, Sandoval was stretching his pants as much as he was stretching his Kung Fu Panda nickname: too far. Sandoval hit just .245 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs.

Between breaking his belt in an attempt to swing at the baseball in Toronto against the Blue Jays to having to be removed from a game for ‘dehydration’ after being gassed running from first to home plate, Sandoval hasn’t exactly made himself adored by the fans or the media. That is, unless Red Sox Nation enjoys ripping into Sandoval’s problems on the field.

Things will be different next season? What proof was there in 2016, when Sandoval only played in three games? He was already out of the running to play third base, being booted out of the lineup by Travis Shaw before Sandoval injured his left shoulder. Sandoval had surgery that kept him out the rest of the season; however, Red Sox fans and the media wondered if the surgery would have even factored into the team’s plans.

In analyzing the DH issue, Jason Mastrodonato of The Boston Herald recently said that Sandoval “looked incapable of playing third base last spring and the Sox are hoping he reports to camp next February as a capable infielder. And if he isn’t? Either the Sox have to cut bait on the former World Series MVP or find a way to get him in the lineup as the DH.”

Mastrodonato is not alone. Much of Boston’s coverage on the situation has Sandoval as a last resort, often found near the bottom of every article as if the Venezuelan is a footnote on the matter.

The only thing going for Sandoval being Boston’s new DH is his defense, or lack there of.

In 2015, when Sandoval wasn’t injured, he posted a .949 fielding percentage which was well below the league’s .958 average. His range? What range? He fell on his face, literally, covering a bunt attempt that season. Nothing about his defense suggests that the Red Sox are looking forward to him playing the field again, which helps his cause of being moved to the DH role.

However, the only reason why the Red Sox would even contemplate the idea is because of his huge contract. The owners will want some kind of return on their investment. No MLB team will want to trade for him if he can’t hit or play defense, so the Red Sox are stuck with him for at least one more season. Hence the DH footnote debate.

Whatever the Red Sox decide to do about the DH role, all of the talk of bringing another big free agent hitter to the team must frustrate Sandoval. He’s sitting right there while the media discusses men who are not even on the team yet taking a spot he would likely covet. Yet, when you are a switch-hitting slugger who can’t buy a hit on either side of the plate with a ton of cash and fatty pounds weighing you down, you don’t really seem to fit the mould to replace a legendary hitter who came through for the team every time he was asked to do it.

This article originally appeared on