Over the weekend, more than a few folks tweeted a picture of Pablo Sandoval at me. More specifically, a picture of Sandoval's midriff. Even more specifically, a picture that does not flatter Sandoval in the slightest. I don't have the rights to the picture, but you can see it in this article, in which a Hall of Fame-honored columnist graces us with his prose:
Mercy. Get a load of that gut.
Mmm-hmmm, right. And it seems like the default response for a lot of Giants fans is schadenfreude. It's not just "there but for the grace of Cherington go I," but honest, unmistakeable malice and ill will toward Sandoval.
And I don't get it. I don't encourage it, and I don't identify with it. Really, the idea of laughing at Sandoval is more than a little weird.
The impulse behind it makes sense, surely. There haven't been a lot of Giants who wanted out. When the Giants developed an All-Star, they kept that All-Star with pails and pails of cash. The only exception is Sandoval, who either felt slighted by the Giants' earlier lowball offers or wanted to experience something new in his still-young career. Both reasons are easy enough to identify with on a human level, but it still stings to have someone leave the Giants on purpose. That's not supposed to happen. It's supposed to be Xanadu, here. Why would anyone want to leave the best baseball city/park/manager in the world?
Oh my word, we're turning into Cardinals fans.
And with good reason! It sure is nice around these parts. We're living in the golden era. Shouldn't other people want to live in the golden era? Sandoval actively ditched the golden era, and for that he must be mocked.
I'm not there, though. I'll never be there. Sandoval will always represent the hope of a lousy team to me. He'll always be a tribute to the unexpected, a hitter who somehow grew out of the salted earth that the Giants' farm system used to be. He'll be a three-homer hero in 2012, and he'll be the guy who tied the game in the ninth against the Nationals before catching the final out against the Royals. In between, he did a lot of baseball things that made us happy, and if I ever say something like, "Ha ha, good riddance, fatso," I want you to punch me in the nose.
That doesn't mean we can't breath a huge sigh of relief that he didn't come back. Like, every five seconds, if possible. Because, oh man, what a mess that would have been. Would Matt Duffy be a left fielder now, or would he have picked up 120 at-bats off the bench last year and still be an enigma? Would the Giants have Johnny Cueto and no Jeff Samardzija, or vice-versa? Or would they have neither? Sandoval spurning the Giants was the best thing that happened to them after the World Series. And it doesn't hurt that he's been so very bad for the Red Sox. So very bad and so very visible.
Well, it hurts the Red Sox. But if you have what-ifs about Sandoval, they aren't tinged with regret.
My hope, then, if I can share it with you, is that Sandoval hits .340 this year and shuts people up. I hope he hits 20 homers over the Green Monster and another 20 just over Pesky's Pole. I hope he becomes the fan favorite we know he can be, and I hope no one gives a rip about his weight by June, as predicted by the Fat Meter.
I don't care if the Red Sox finish first or fifth because of all this, but I'm still rooting for Sandoval. I'm still hardwired to do it, and I'm not ashamed of it at all. Before Pablo Sandoval arrived, the Giants were a dull team that couldn't finish .500. When he left, the Giants had everything. It wasn't all because of him, but he certainly helped.
If he fats himself into Red Sox infamy forever, it will make me terribly sad. These pictures aren't good for a chuckle. I'm not eager to share them with my friends to prove a point. Just because he made a life choice that fans took personally, that doesn't mean that I'm rooting for him to fail. He's still Pablo Sandoval, the hitting prospect who started it all.
Shut 'em all up, Pablo. Shut 'em all up for the fans who still believe in you.
(It sure is nice to not have to deal with this, though. Surrrrrrre is nice.)