Hey, Boston Red Sox fans: To borrow from The Hollies, he ain’t heavy, he’s your Panda.

You’ve seen the picture by now, as well as the accompanying tweet by Boston.com’s Steve Silva. Or, in case you haven’t:

Silva later claimed his intent was merely to “poke a little fun” at the Red Sox’s new $95 million third baseman and that he had no idea “what a big deal it would become on the World Wide Web and beyond.”


Really, this is nothing new. Worries about Sandoval’s weight have dogged him since he broke out with the San Francisco Giants six seasons ago.

Who can forget the notorious 2009 “Camp Panda” experiment, a three-and-a-half week diet-and-exercise blitzkrieg designed to whip Sandoval into shape?

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle described the program, detailing everything from Sandoval’s workout regimen (weightlifting, mountain climbing, cardio) to his prescribed breakfast (half an English muffin, a bowl of Cheerios and coffee).

“He was a little poopy-pants the rest of the afternoon,” then-Giants strength and conditioning coordinator Ben Potenziano told Schulman at the time after a particularly grueling workout. “He wasn’t his happy self.”

Keep in mind, Sandoval was coming off a season in which he hit .330 with 25 home runs and finished seventh in MVP voting. How many players who’ve achieved that level of success, in their first full big league campaign no less, have been publicly called a “poopy-pants” by a club employee?

The condescending jokes and fat shaming are old hat for Sandoval. He responded to Silva’s tweet by “playfully” challenging the writer to work out with him, per ESPNBoston.com‘s Rick Weber, and on Saturday, Silva called Sandoval a “workout machine.”

So Sandoval mended fences with one writer (if they were ever broken). Don’t expect the Panda Waistline Watch to ease up in Beantown. It’s simply too juicy of an angle.

Sandoval isn’t svelte. MLB.com lists him at 5’11”, 245 pounds, and he’s looked much heavier at times. That, inevitably, leads to health concerns.

Yet during his tenure in San Francisco, Sandoval’s two major injuries were broken hamate bones in each hand, suffered in 2011 and 2012. Those had nothing to do with his weight. (And, as Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner told MLB.com‘s Chris Haft at the time, since the bones were surgically removed, “he can’t do it again.”)

Big picture, it would be wise for Sandoval to keep his scale-tipping to a minimum, and the Red Sox have every right to closely monitor the player they inked for the next half-decade.

But this is the part where we conjure Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn, portly players who put together Hall of Fame careers, spare tires and all. 

Sandoval is only 28, so it’s premature to place him in that elite company. He’s on his way, though, and a move from the pitchers’ paradise that is AT&T Park to hitter-friendly Fenway should speed the switch-hitter along his path.

Sandoval isn’t the only bat Boston added this offseason as it seeks to rebound from a last-place finish in the American League East.

Hanley Ramirez is also in town, and he received a hefty dose of non-snarky love from Silva:

Boston also revamped its starting rotation, and it has enough pieces in its well-stocked farm system to make more moves at the deadline. 

But Red Sox fans with dreams of October should be most excited about Sandoval, whose regular season accomplishments pale in comparison to his postseason output.

In addition to the trio of rings he won in San Francisco, the Panda owns a lifetime .344 batting average and .935 OPS in 154 playoff at-bats. 

And he sits on a short list of players who have clubbed three home runs in a single World Series game. The others? Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols. 

Decent company, right?

All of which is to say: Put the fat talk aside, Boston. You’ve got a young player with a solid track record, particularly when it counts, and a winning personality to boot. 

Until he hits that first slump, of course. Then you can sharpen your pitchforks (or pass him the salad fork). As Bill Hanstock of McCovey Chronicles pointed out in 2013, there’s a scientific correlation between how well Sandoval is hitting and how fat he looks. 

For now, embrace him, belly and all. He may be heavy, but he’s your Panda. 


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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