Pablo Sandoval is about to find out why words, weight won't let him off the hook

by: Rob Bradford on Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:47am

Pablo Sandoval met with media for the first time this season Thursday. ( photo)FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Words. They mean nothing. Hanley Ramirez figured that out a year ago, and now it's Pablo Sandoval's turn.

We wanted what Sandoval passed along to the assembled media at JetBlue Park Thursday to crack the code of his existence. But instead we were just left with giving the third baseman a tip of the chapeau for losing weight and saying the right things.

It was a good start, but nothing more. These initial salvos mean little.

Sandoval's initial meeting with the media upon his arrival in camp last season was comically bad. Lesson clearly learned.

Last year: "No, I don't got nothing to prove."

This year: "Everything. I have to prove everything. Especially when you’re coming from an off year after the injuries and you come back and you have to prove a lot of things to the fans, to the team, to your teammates, to the sport. You have to prove a lot of things out there on the field."

Last year: "You can't have the whole season be great."

This year: "I just want to focus on doing my job out there. I know there’s a lot of things to work on that we have to do. It’s always a challenge, but the thing is, at the end of the day, you have to work hard to get there. That’s what I’ve been doing."

Last year: "I don't weigh in all offseason. I just tried to get better -- and be an athlete."

This year: "I don’t focus on the scale. I focus on doing my job. The team staff and the program I’ve been working on, they’ve been touching on that, but I don’t focus on the scale."

Last year: "I've been working all offseason just right-handed."

This year: "Now I’m 100 percent right-handed, I’m going to do the best out there to keep swinging."

Last year: "I did no work in the field, nothing."

This year: "For me it's going to be a challenge when I've lost all that year. I've come back strong and with the work I've done in the offseason I'm going to be ready to be in the field."

Then there was the justification coming from his then-trainer, Rafael Alvarez, in the days after Sandoval's introduction to 2016 spring training.

"He's better than he was last year. More muscle. His speed and range is good. There's no problems. He's quicker than he was last year … He’s better. He’s very, very good. This year, he will stay better. You will see a different Pablo Sandoval."

In case you missed it, there wasn't a better Pablo Sandoval.

Meanwhile, while the third baseman was attempting to explain away his appearance and diminished skill-set, Ramirez paved the way for his rebound season with a lot of the same kind of messages Sandoval finally uncovered Thursday. See if the tone of these quotes from Ramirez last February sound familiar.

When asked if he wanted to prove people wrong, the first baseman said, "I just try to do my job and do the best I can. I don't think like that. I let you guys see what's going on here. If I stay healthy, a lot of good things can happen."

As Ramirez found out, Sandoval has a long, long, long way to go before there will be any acceptance. Like the former left fielder discovered, when you've burned a fan base like the one belonging to the Red Sox, sins aren't quickly forgiven. That's why nobody wanted to believe Hanley would be any good until finally -- perhaps at the moment he picked a first-inning throw from Xander Bogaerts in the home opener and proceeded to tip his hat to the crowd -- he made them believe.

But appearance and attitude two days after Valentines Day won't do the trick.

This what I wrote after Ramirez's first day last spring training …

"If you were to bottle those hours in Southwest Florida to form an opinion on Ramirez, he would have won. Unfortunately for the infielder, it's going to take more than one day before he's anywhere other than the losing end of public opinion.

"Maybe such days as Wednesday would have sold what Ramirez was selling in 2015. But heading into 2016, he's not so lucky.

"Benefit of the doubt has left the building."

Tell me it wouldn't so, so easy to plagiarize myself and run those words back out for Sandoval this time around.

As we pointed out with Ramirez 365 days ago, Sandoval has won Day 1. And that last line written on Feb. 17, 2016 when describing Hanley holds up perfectly for his fellow infielder. 

"Such is life when you've lost the right to be wrong."