Here is a link to my Sunday column about the Pablo Sandoval sweepstakes: The full text runs below:
The Bay Area has descended into serious Panda-monium. Or maybe we’re all suffering from Panda-mania and need prescription drugs to calm our frantic mood.
It’s all because Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval is a free agent and he’s shopping himself around the major leagues for lots of bucks with lots of years on a whopper contract. That certainly is his prerogative, and I wish him all the best.
It’s just that Giants fans and some sports pundits (what’s a pundit?) have begun mourning the loss of Sandoval before he’s even left. It’s like the pillars of the universe will collapse if the Panda plays elsewhere. I’ve read the Giants have no excuse NOT to sign Sandoval and they should be ashamed of themselves if they don’t.
I had no idea Sandoval is the second coming of George Brett.
Let me state my position up front. It will be somewhat inconvenient if Sandoval leaves San Francisco. “Somewhat inconvenient” does not ascend to the level of “devastating” or “revolting” or tragic.
Why will it be somewhat inconvenient?
Because Sandoval is already in place. Because Sandoval is a very good player some of the time. Because he will be hard to replace — but not impossible to replace.
Let’s talk frankly about Sandoval, about the kind of player he really is — not who you want him to be. He is a middle-of-the-order hitter who is no big deal in the regular season. He is serviceable. He is not a player who will get you to the playoffs, but once in the playoffs, he presses the overdrive button and becomes a superstar. It’s quite a phenomenon. So, if the Giants pay lots of money for him, they are paying for Playoffs Panda.
He hits better left-handed than right-handed. Last season — not counting playoffs — he batted .317 lefty, .199 righty. That means he’s a left-handed champ and a right-handed chump. From the right side he approaches liability territory.
Last season, he morphed into a fabulous fielder. Bruce Bochy rarely took him out for a defensive replacement. Sandoval has soft, sweet hands. His first step left or right is rapid. And his arm is a gun.
But he has weight issues, as you know, issues he could not overcome even in his contract year. He is 28, but the possibility exists he will age faster than normal.
Let’s compare him to Billy Butler for the heck of it. The A’s just signed Butler, also 28, also battling weight problems. The A’s project Butler hitting in the middle of the lineup just like Sandoval. The Butler signing, a so-so signing, is for a reported three years at $30 million. Which means the A’s did not break the bank for Butler.
But everyone wants to break the bank for Sandoval. It sure seems that way. That’s because Sandoval is so much better than Butler. Right?
Let’s compare and contrast. Let’s take the past three seasons. In that time frame, Butler hit 53 home runs. How many did Sandoval hit? Forty-two.
How about RBIs? Butler drove in 255, Sandoval 215.
Sure, statistics can lie and, admittedly, three years is an arbitrary sample, but not a bad one. Butler signed for 30 big ones and Sandoval wants more than three times that, according to reports.
With Sandoval you get lots of “according to reports” and “reportedly.” I never have seen so much confusion attached to one player. He reportedly asked the Giants for a seven-year deal. He did that because he really doesn’t want to be a Giant and he knows they’ll never go for seven years. Reportedly.
Is he that devious and strategic?
We know he visited the Red Sox. He’s reportedly on the radar of the Padres and Blue Jays. For all we know, the Niners reportedly made him an offer as a pass-rushing linebacker.
The Giants’ offer seems to be the “Hunter Pence Contract.” Keep that in mind. The Hunter Pence Contract seems to be the bottom line for Pablo Sandoval, superstar. Or below the bottom line.
Just what is the Hunter Pence Contract?
It is five years at $90 million. It is one heck of a contract. Sandoval may be scoffing at that — it averages out to a mere $18 million a year. He reportedly wants more dough and more years.
Fine, if he can get it. But Pence is a better player than Sandoval. He plays just about every day, and he’s good in the regular season as well as the playoffs. I don’t believe Sandoval deserves the Hunter Pence Contract, but it’s not my money. If the Giants can get Sandoval for Pence money, good for them.
What’s scary is the reported age requirement from Sandoval. It’s scary if he demands and gets six years or seven years. Would you want him at age 34 or 35? It’s impossible to know who he will be. He may be out of shape. He may be a double-play machine. He may be suitable only for DH duty in the American League, if he’s lucky. Those are real possibilities and they should give a good team pause — a team like the Giants.
Too many people have made the Panda issue a moral issue. The Giants will be wrong and immoral and cheap and stupid if they don’t keep Panda. It’s nothing like that. It is a strict money decision, a value-to-the-team decision. This is not Mike Schmidt we’re talking about.
If the Giants decide to re-sign Sandoval, that’s their business. If they decide not to re-sign him, that’s also their business. Remember, Brian Sabean will make the business decision. And he knows his business like nobody’s business. He’s proved it.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.