Who knew that Pablo Sandoval would become one of the biggest offensive forces of the AT&T Park era when he had his first major league at bat ten years ago today. Certainly, he garnered a lot of attention for his minor league exploits, and advanced from A-ball to Double-A, appeared in the Future’s Game in July, and then advanced to the majors all in a single season, making his advancement as a 22-year old staggering, in terms of San Francisco Giants’ history.
There wasn’t much written about his call-up on August 13th, but it came as part of a series of big “get younger” moves the Giants made that day. As Andrew Baggarly wrote for the Mercury News:
Before their game tonight, the club called up first baseman Travis Ishikawa, third baseman Ryan Rohlinger and catcher/first baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Struggling first baseman John Bowker was optioned to Triple-A Fresno along with backup catcher Steve Holm. Third baseman Jose Castillo was designated for assignment, almost assuredly ending his Giants tenure before he could make it through a full season.
Sandoval has been the biggest sensation in the Giants system this year. The switch-hitting catcher, who turned 22 on Monday, hit .359 for Class-A San Jose and didn’t stop hitting when promoted to the pitcher-friendly Eastern League. He was batting .337 with eight home runs in 175 at-bats for the Defenders.
We know Travis Ishikawa delivered one of the biggest moments in the entire history of the franchise and maybe some of us thought at the time that, given enough of a look he might develop into a useful player (unrelated, but related: he’d hit his first major league home run just four days after his callup; here’s a blurry video of the accomplishment), but I wonder how many of us had Pablo Sandoval pegged ten years ago on the night of his call-up as being a franchise contributor.
Over the past decade, only one Giant has amassed more hits, home runs, RBI, runs scored, and batting average than Pablo Sandoval and that’s Buster Posey. Sandoval’s .342 wOBA as a Giant is third behind Posey and Belt, too (yes, this excludes his Boston numbers). Any one of his most prominent contributions would be the sole highlight of most other players’ careers, to say nothing of leaving the team to be bad for a different team before coming back to be an admirable contributor for the team once more. His original departure had a “good riddance” vibe to it. Now, it’s clear that he’s secured a favorable place in Giants lore.
He went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly in his debut at Houston (a 7-4 loss), and wouldn’t play again for a couple of days until the second game of a series in Atlanta (an 11-5 loss). He went 3-for-5 that day. Then, he sat out the next game, went 2-for-4 in the next one (a 5-0 win), came in as a pinch hitter (he hit a double) and defensive replacement in the following game (a 6-0 loss), and then, thankfully, basically started every game for the rest of the season, putting up a .345 / .357 / .490 line in 154 plate appearances across 41 games.
His .362 wOBA average in 154 plate appearances is still the 17th-highest single-season wOBA on the Giants over the past 10 years. Belt and Crawford have certainly moved up the list, but his longevity and performance have really stuck.
Let’s go back to this 2008 of his, though. In addition to his Future’s Game appearance and Major League Debut, he went home to Venezuela and played for Magallanes in the Venezuelan Pro League and participated in their home run derby:
He played a lot of baseball in 2008 and rose through the ranks and basically became star. Few people outside of musical artists and actors have such meteoric rises and given his personality, he definitely seems to have the charm of a famous personality.
That season-ending hamstring tear two weeks ago didn’t end just a nice season for a rebounding player, it ended a large measure of fun. Sandoval has always been some badly-needed mirth or the yeast that makes the dough rise. Fun isn’t something one considers when evaluating the Giants, but Sandoval always managed to put a smile on our faces.
So, thanks for sticking around, Pablo. Thanks for the multitude of memories that any single one could be enough on which to live a lifetime; and, really, thank you for Joey Bart.