It’s safe to say that Pablo Sandoval has had a bad week with the media since arriving in Fort Myers.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it—no pun intended: The man is overweight, and for a professional athlete, especially someone paid to the tune of $18 million a season, the consensus is that this is patently unacceptable.
And, admittedly, it is baffling how someone whose sole purpose is to stay in shape and perform at an optimum physical level would allow their self to Scooby-snack to point of becoming a parody.
However, it is now coming out from San Francisco Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow that Sandoval may have an eating disorder. And after Boston sports talk media finished with their guffaws and disparagement, the obvious conclusion was that this was a some kind of cover up for a professional athlete who does not take their responsibilities seriously enough to dignify their salary.
Now let’s assume for a second that Sandoval really does have an eating disorder, which is a real thing that affects up to 30 million people in the United States alone. Is an eating disorder discernibly different from having a drug, alcohol, or gambling problem? And if true, is this something we should be grumbling or joking about?
These types of problems boil down to the fact that the individuals in question, for myriad reasons, can’t control their impulses, and the effects are often debilitating, preventing said individuals from maintaining steady work or healthy relationships. Our unfortunate cultural tendency, however, especially in an age of social media where everyone gets a punch, is to shame and berate these individuals, believing that these methods are the most effective ways of getting them to change their undesirable behaviors.
In fact, baseball, perhaps more than any of the other professional sports, has showcased more than its share problem players, individuals with addictions and disorders, throughout its storied history.
Start with Babe Ruth, although it certainly tracks back further. Was Ruth overweight? Did Ruth abuse alcohol? Did Ruth behave compulsively when it came to women who weren’t his wife? Unlike Wade Boggs, however, he stopped short of admittedly that he was addicted to sex.
No one could crank butts like Joe Dimaggio, and Mickey Mantle, one of the greatest natural power hitters, was known to play with either vicious hangovers or flat-out tanked.
Drugs? Players throughout 20th Century popped amphetamines like sunflowers seeds in the dugouts, and Doc Ellis even threw a no-hitter on LSD in 1970.
And what about Peter Rose? His gambling “disorder” has kept one of the finest all-around players to ever play the game out of the Hall of Fame.
I’m not a therapist or someone who knows Pablo Sandoval as a person so I’m the last person to validate Krukow’s claim. Like many Sox fans, I was frustrated with Sandoval showing up overweight and making some dismissive claims to the Boston media. I, too, saw it as a slap to the face of teammates and management and fans alike. However, when I heard mention of an eating disorder, I started to pump the brakes.
Maybe this is a smokescreen, maybe this is some elaborate ruse for a lazy athlete; or maybe Sandoval is a man struggling with something he can’t control. When my better side shows up to write, I try to act with empathy and compassion, and if the latter is the case for Sandoval, I hope the Panda gets help. These are health issues, not moral ones. And while it’s sometimes hard to remember when writing, especially when writing about professional athletes, these are human beings. Treat accordingly.