You have to feel for Pablo Sandoval.
Since recording the final out in the 2014 World Series, he hasn’t been able to make a right move.
Leaving a city that loved you, that you helped bring three World Series Championships in five seasons to; where you never would have had to prove yourself in any fashion every again — Well, that was Bad Move No. 1.
Signing with a team based in a viciously carnivorous media market was Bad Move No. 2.
It’s been a chain of injuries, slumps and unflattering pictures circulating social media ever since.
Now, the inevitable has happened. A younger, cheaper (and, as I’ve written previously this spring – more deserving) player in Travis Shaw has stepped up and grabbed his starting spot.
The Panda tried to make the best of it, handle it like a team-first type of guy, and got roasted for not wanting it enough. If he handled it oppositely, he would’ve been scorched for being selfish, and a cancer to the clubhouse. There was really no way for him to handle this that didn’t have a potential negative spin to it.
A large portion of the animosity can be traced to the idea that Boston wound up paying him roughly $153,000 per hit last season.
So in three hits, they paid just short of what they paid Shaw and his 13 home runs last year.
It’s a rough, and perhaps unfair comparison.
Truthfully, the contract created unrealistic expectations for a player who was statistically showing vast signs of decline over an arc of several seasons.
The fault isn’t on Pablo Sandoval. He is exactly what he was, or was rapidly on his way to becoming, when the club signed him.
Boston, and it’s desire to show its desire to “win now,” that’s where the blame lies.
This is why big contracts paid into the free agent market never pay off. Ever.
You pay for who the player has been for another club – and you augment that with the presumption they’ll be even better for you.
West Of Fenway Working Theory: The free agent market is best used to fill gaps and hire role players. You can’t build long-term success through bringing guys in from the outside and paying them more than your best guys on the inside.
Big contracts should go to the players you know already. They know their role, how they fit into the clubhouse, and also (for the younger players on the roster) that you’ll stick with them for the long haul if they hold up their end of the deal. You know how they react to pressure and success … and failure; if they play through pain or succumb to it, and if they will put team success ahead of their own.
The free agent market is largely paying for what you see between the lines and not so much that other 90 percent of the time they are a part of your franchise. The risks are far too varied and too great to open up the wallet.
It’s like going to a car lot and driving away with their nicest looking car without test driving it first.
You might get a good one. You also might find you hate it by the first time it snows … or by your first trip to the mechanic.
In any case, the Pablo Experiment — in the absence of a improbable major rebound — is likely over.
Hopefully a lesson has been learned.
But since it began a mere three seasons after the Beckett-Gonzalez-Crawford salary purge, and has only been added to with the spendy addition of David Price, that seems unlikely.