Pablo Sandoval’s time in Boston was something to forget. Surrounded by tension, scandal and poor performance, he ended up being released by the Boston Red Sox and was recently scooped up by his former team, the San Francisco Giants.
The Boston Red Sox have had their fair share of free agent signings gone wrong.
There was Edgar Renteria and Matt Clement in December of 2004. There was Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew going into the 2007 season. And who could forget the bust that Carl Crawford turned out to be after signing a $142 million deal in the winter of 2010?
The jury is still out on David Price.
But none were as drama-filled and dreadful as the signing of Pablo Sandoval back in the winter of 2014.
Yesterday, Sandoval penned an essay for The Players’ Tribune entitled “Back Where I Belong”. In it, Sandoval pours out all of his love and affection for the Giants franchise that seemingly disappeared over his two and a half years in Boston. He gushes over Bruce Bochy and the rest of the team as he describes what it was like his first time back in the Giants clubhouse. He even describes crying when he got called back up to the majors.
What a tear-jerker.
In the piece, he also describes his time in Boston. Here is what he says:
"I tried very much to fit in, and I think that was part of the problem.It’s the same thing when I step to the plate: When I try too much, I struggle. And when you’re trying so much to fit in, it’s difficult to perform.At the end of the day, I just never felt comfortable in Boston. It had nothing to do with the organization, or my teammates, or the fans, or the city. Everybody was great to me. I think it was just something that happens sometimes – you don’t feel comfortable somewhere, or you don’t fit in, even if you’re in a place you chose to be."
So there’s a lot to take away from that. The first of which is that I firmly believe a lot of things culminated together to create a miserable experience for Sandoval in Boston and for Boston’s ingesting of Sandoval.
For one, he was in terrible shape going into 2016. He was not just out of shape; he was obese. He had seven plate appearances that year. Seven. After that, a slew of injuries along with his weight kept him sidelined for the rest of the season.
That certainly didn’t help his image.
Another point is that he’s actually very right on one thing: He never did fit in here in Boston.
Boston is a very unique place and if you haven’t been here or been brought up here, it’s hard to see it from the outside. For free agents to be able to play and thrive here, they have to have an intangible that is almost impossible to see. They have to be tough. They have to be able to handle tons of media attention, loads of fan criticisms and a microscope directly over them at all times.
David Price and Chris Sale are both elite pitchers. But why has Sale been a rousing success while, thus far, Price has been such a failure?
Because if you listen to the tone of their voices, watch their body language on the mound and pay attention to how they act, there’s a clear difference between the two: Sale is tough and tunes all of the noise from Boston out. Price doesn’t.
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The non-stop media attention can kill players here in Boston. That’s part of why Terry Francona was such a great fit as Red Sox manager. He was able to keep some of that “extra stuff” away from players and let them play.
Players who are brought up through the Boston system end up having the most success. If you look at the core of the current Red Sox team, it’s made up of guys who came up with the Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, just to name a few.
Sandoval was clearly unprepared for the tsunami that washed over his life and baseball career. In 2015, Jared Carrabis of Barstool Sports caught Sandoval liking Instagram pictures during a game. Sandoval was benched shortly thereafter.
I believe that Sandoval going to Boston was equivalent to someone going through a midlife crisis.
After all the success that he had in San Francisco (three World Series rings, All-Star appearances, World Series MVPs), he left it all to go to the other coast for no real, logical reason. That’s what he means when he writes that “It felt like I had never left [the Giants clubhouse].”
It’s similar to the man who leaves his wife of 20 years for someone much younger and expects it to be a way to be young again. Instead, it’s just one big, catastrophic midlife crisis that did nobody any good.
Like that man, Sandoval believed the grass to be greener in Boston when in reality, it wasn’t.
"“I don’t know that you ever anticipate it’s going to be a bad fit going into this. I’m aware of some of the comments that he made. Coming to Boston was his choice. Whether it was leaving an organization that he grew up in, so to speak, or coming to a place under the circumstances that he did, a lot of expectations, a pressure place to play – that’s not to say that San Francisco is not – but for one reason or another, I think he might have outlined many [of] the reasons why he didn’t feel comfortable here. I think we went to many steps that took into account his needs on and off the field as best we could.”"
The bottom line is that Sandoval never fit in Boston, and in turn, Boston never fit Sandoval.