ATLANTA — A season drifting away from the Red Sox turned embarrassing on Thursday when third baseman Pablo Sandoval was benched for perusing a social media website during Wednesday’s loss against the Atlanta Braves.
Sandoval admitted to team officials that he was on the photo-sharing site Instagram during the seventh inning when he left the bench to return to the clubhouse. He left a trail of evidence by “liking” two photographs of a woman posting under the name of diva_legacy.
Sandoval’s actions were first reported by the Barstool Sports blog.
“I know I [messed] up,” Sandoval said. “I made a mistake yesterday so I learned from that. I’m a human being; I make mistakes. I apologized to my teammates and the organization.”
The Red Sox signed Sandoval to a five-year, $95 million deal in November. He has hit .270 but with only six home runs and 23 RBIs.
“It’s disappointing. It’s disappointing because it’s a rule that is known by all,” manager John Farrell said. “It’s very disappointing. It’s not tolerable and as a result he’s on the bench.
“Obviously it’s a violation of MLB rules. It’s a violation of our own team policies. We handled it accordingly . . . I don’t know of any further discipline at this point in time.”
The Red Sox have a team rule requiring cellphones, tablets, and other devices be shut off 30 minutes before first pitch. Major League Baseball has a similar rule and spokesman Mike Teevan said Sandoval’s actions are under review.
MLB’s on-field operations regulations mandate that players are prohibited from using devices within 30 minutes of the start of a game. Sandoval is not considered in violation of MLB’s social media policy because he did not post any messages.
Sandoval could face a fine from MLB. He has not been fined by the Red Sox.
Sandoval said he went to the clubhouse to use the bathroom and grabbed his phone out of habit. He claimed never to have done it before.
“Yes, first time. I made the mistake, I learned from that,” he said. “I’ll move forward and try not to do it any more. I let my teammates down. It ain’t going to happen no more.”
Sandoval first met with Farrell when he arrived at Turner Field then with Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington. He later spoke to his teammates.
“We had a meeting. I take the punishment. When you grow up you learn from a lot of things. You learn every single day of your life. I learned from that,” he said.
Said Farrell: “We’ve also handled some other things internally on the matter . . . That doesn’t at this moment take into account any financial discipline.”
Farrell chose not to define what “other things” involved other than they included both Sandoval and the rest of the players.
Cherington was brusque when asked about the situation.
“There’s nothing else to say. This happened. He made a mistake. He’s admitted it; he’s accountable for it. He talked to his teammates about it. John and I talked to him. He’s not playing today. That’s it,” he said.
In only his third month with the Red Sox, Sandoval added to the team’s rich history of illogical behavior.
In 2011, a group of starting pitchers admitted to feasting on fried chicken and beer during games. Mercurial left fielder Manny Ramirez disappeared into the Green Monster during a game in 2005, emerging as a pitch was being thrown.
Hall of Famer Wade Boggs once claimed he willed himself invisible to avoid a confrontation in a nightclub. He later went on national television and said he was a sex addict.
In 1987, local police tracked down righthander Oil Can Boyd during spring training for failing to return several rented pornographic videotapes.
Now comes the Panda’s Instagram imbroglio.
If the Red Sox were nine games ahead in the division instead of nine games behind, the incident likely would have been laughed off. Instead it became national news.
“This becomes a much greater focal point. I recognize that,” Farrell said. “That’s why players now in Boston for the first time are feeling that and living in it and living through it. It’s important that we continue to stick together as a group.”
As Farrell took questions about Sandoval, he sounded like an aggravated middle school teacher.
“They’re men. Grown men. Professionals,” he said. “We outline expectations and you trust that their commitment is on the field each and every day.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.