SAN FRANCISCO — There are no stuffed pandas in the stands anymore at beautiful AT&T Park. There’s nary a mention of former World Series hero Pablo Sandoval unless someone asks.
One of the Giants’ great postseason heroes is not missed one bit.
Some day he’ll be brought back for an old timers’ day or the like and enough time will have passed where he’ll be remembered fondly, but not now.
The consensus here is good riddance and for two reasons: he left San Francisco even though the Giants offered him the same deal as the Red Sox, and he made nasty comments about the Giants last spring training, saying he wouldn’t miss anyone.
He backtracked from those words, but Giants fans and even ex-teammates were unforgiving.
Sanodval’s words were cutting. He said when asked if he’d miss anyone with the Giants, “Only Bochy,” Sandoval said of Giants manager Bruce Bochy in March 2015. “I love Boch. He’s like my dad. He’s the only guy that I miss. And Hunter Pence. Just those guys.
“I knew early in spring training last year I was going to leave,” Sandoval said at the time. “They didn’t respect my agent. Contract talks, everything. The way [Giants general manager] Brian Sabean talked to my agent.”
He added, “The Giants made a good offer, but I didn’t want to take it. I got five years [and $95 million] from Boston. I left money on the table in San Francisco. It is not about money. It is about how you treat the player.”
Sandoval now holds the distinction of being disliked here and in Boston. Sandoval built up no goodwill in Boston before showing up fat and out of shape each of the last two years. Boston fans hate that. Giants fans always looked the other way because once the postseason arrived, Sandoval flipped the switch and boy did he produce.
Jake Peavy was Sandoval’s teammate for three months after he came to San Francisco from Boston in 2014 and witnessed quite a sight.
“He’ll never be a distant memory in my mind,” Peavy said. “I watched special performances in 2013 in Boston. Jon Lester, David Ortiz come to mind. John Lackey comes to mind. Above and beyond. Pablo, in that 2014 postseason when he got more hits than any player in postseason history . . . I was there everyday. The time I got with Pablo was special. I saw him come up big in a huge way. But as a team you have to turn the page. And we have.”
Peavy knew that Sandoval’s statements bothered some of his ex-teammates, but Peavy said he was never close enough to him to take them to heart.
“It certainly didn’t bother me,” Peavy said. “I didn’t have a strong personal tie [with him] off the field. When I see Pablo I’ll give him a big hug because we came to work together for three months and we were bound together in unison. Those teams that win are close and special.”
Peavy said he’s thought about life in the postseason without Pablo.
“I can tell you this there’s no doubt that that comment about not having Pablo in the postseason is so true,” Peavy said. “I’ve thought about that. There will have to be someone who steps up with a special energy. There will be a void to fill if the team is to win another championship, but we can do it with the guys we have in here.”
Peavy added that if the Giants had never lost Sandoval they would never have known what they had in Matt Duffy, who was runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year.
Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner said, “I loved the guy and I miss him. But this game moves on everyday. There’s 162 games in a season and you can’t dwell on things in the past. A few days and you’re accustomed to what’s going on now. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss him, and I don’t mean this with disrespect, but it’s amazing how quickly you move on. It’s a day-to-day deal. You just get past it. It just happens that way.
“He certainly was a huge part of our championships. Not to take anything away from that. But I believe in the guys here just as much as when he was here. He’d be nice to have, but I believe in the guys we have,” Bumgarner said.
The subject of Sandoval conjured up all sorts of stories about him, particularly his eating prowess.
“His ex-wife would have full meals for him after every home game. Pablo would claim they didn’t feed the players after the game, but they certainly did. His wife thought he was starving so he’d get this huge meal,” said one Giants official.
There were stories about how he would have two large pizzas awaiting him when the team arrived to a certain city.
The fatter he got the worse he was in the field. In 2014, he was on his way to a Gold Glove, but he ate his way out of it. The bigger he got, the worse he got in the field.
It was just Pablo being Pablo. The people here were shocked when he took the Boston offer. Everyone knew he would have to prove himself to the fan base. And when you’re not in shape, you’ll never win Boston fans over.
The most basic requirement of any athlete in any sport is to be in shape. Pablo was unable to deliver that in Boston. And while he delivered results in San Francisco, it’s a distant memory, one which will be conjured up again when enough time has passed that people will forget that Sandoval left them when he didn’t have to.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.