The Dirty Dozen: The Up and Down Life of Pablo

    It was Pandamonium in Fort Myers Sunday when Pablo Sandoval — who according to one report has an “eating disorder and can’t control himself” — showed up to camp with a big-ass belly again.


    There was a time — before the Red Sox gave him a guaranteed $95 million contract — that the Panda actually cared about getting in shape during the offseason. In fact, there were a few times.

    After Sandoval’s first full season in the majors in 2009 — when the 23-year-old batted .330 with 25 homers and 90 RBIs — his girth raised eyebrows in San Francisco as he checked in at 282 pounds.

    Enter Camp Panda, “an extraordinary, 3 1/2-week training and nutritional program devised by the Giants and conducted at a time when most players are home reacquainting themselves with their 6-irons.” The goal was to get Sandoval down to a target weight of about 250 pounds.

    While in Camp Panda, Sandoval spent five days a week undergoing a torturous five-hour regimen that included two rounds of fat-vaporizing cardio training, one round of weightlifting, a trip to the batting cage and lunch prepared by a company that delivered all of his meals. The result? Pablo dropped about 45 pounds when camp was complete.

    “I’m getting ready to play 162 games,” Sandoval said in 2009 after an 80-minute bout with free weights and resistance machines. “I’m going to work hard to keep the weight off.”

    Sandoval’s Arizona nutritionist at the time said she sees “a very hard-working young man who knows he has a vast amount of potential. He wants to make wise choices for his performance, his career, and his health.”

    And Panda promised to stay on track while heading to Venezuela to play winter ball before the 2010 season began.

    “It’s good to learn about portions, to eat fruit, to eat the right things,” Sandoval said. “When I go to Venezuela, I’m going to do everything like I’m still doing here.”


    The weight loss didn’t last long after the Venezuela trip where Pablo quickly added 10 pounds to his frame. But Panda still managed to check into spring training at 238 pounds, but unfortunately he ballooned up to 278 pounds during the 2010 season.

    Pablo Sandoval's weight loss in San Francisco
    Pablo Sandoval’s weight loss as a Giant in 2011

    When the season ended, Sandoval started on a highly-disciplined nutrition and training plan that resulted in his reducing his body fat measurement from 30 percent to 19 percent — along with a total fat loss that was closer to 45 pounds. Sandoval tipped the scales at a svelte 240 pounds during the official weigh-in in Scottsdale, Ariz. before the 2011 season began.

    “I don’t need to look at a scale to see how hard he’s worked and where he’s at,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Panda’s 38 pound weight loss. “It’s pretty evident he’s done a lot this offseason to get in the condition he needs to be in. I’m happy. We’re all happy.”

    Pablo liked to have his cake and eat it, too.
    Pablo liked to have his cake and eat it, too.

    Sandoval spoke about his nutrition plan in detail at the time.

    “The most important thing for me was to get breakfast, which is something I did not do in the past,” Pablo said. “You get the metabolism going. It’s really important when you are working out to give you that energy.

    “Second breakfast would be an omelet with vegetables. Lunch would be rice, vegetables and a small portion of beef. Second lunch would be chicken or beef, with a sweet potato. Dinner was chicken or beef and a salad. Every time, the meat or chicken portion was seven ounces. When you eat every three hours, you never feel like you’re hungry and you have the energy to work out.”


    But the yo-yo pattern continued and Panda’s new body didn’t last long. By the time spring training rolled around in 2012, the narrative was back to the subject of Sandoval having to lose weight again. When Bochy saw Pablo in January in Arizona, the Giants manager admitted that his third baseman was heavier than he would have liked.

    “He’s got a few pounds to lose. That’s fair to say,” Bochy said. “He’s working hard. He’s got a few pounds to work out before spring training.” Wouldn’t it have been refreshing to hear Red Sox manager John Farrell say something similar when Sandoval showed up with his stretch-marked belly Sunday?

    Sandoval told one Spanish-language reporter he had gained 10 pounds while in Venezuela during the 2011-12 offseason but mostly had worked that off. Another Spanish-language reporter said it was a 25 pound gain.

    Bochy was clearly displeased after the 25-year-old slugger put on more weight after an early season stint on the DL after having surgery on the hamate bone in his left wrist. Bochy met with Panda personally to discuss the unexpected weight gain.

    “It’s important what I think, what they think: my coach, my trainers,” Sandoval said in June 2012. “If they think I should lose weight, I’m going to lose it. The way I feel, I feel great… You know what? I’m focused on baseball. I’m ready to play. I’m focused right now on the rest of the team and that’s it.”

    Bochy wasn’t buying it.

    “There comes a time when you don’t want to hear it, you need action,” Bochy said. “That’s got to happen now, which has this past week. He worked hard, he’s getting it down. That has to be consistent, it can’t be for three or four days or a week. It’s got to be for the season. That’s what he needs to do, that’s what we want to see and he knows that’s what he needs to do. He’s a vital part of this team. As we’ve seen, just a couple years ago, when he’s not quite in the condition he needs to be it’s hard to perform to your capability.”


    Before the start of the 2013 season, the weight was still an issue for Sandoval.

    Bochy told Sandoval he would bench him if he didn’t tip the scales at a certain weight by the Cactus League opener.

    “To his credit, he did,” Bochy said. “Although to be honest, I’m not sure how.”

    But coming into spring training in 2013, Sandoval was heavier than at any time since the end of the 2010 season, when his weight problem contributed to losing his job in the postseason.

    Enter the official Pablo Sandoval Fat Meter.

    But the yo-yo ride would continue and Pablo would go on to lose 22 pounds in six weeks, crediting his oldest brother Luis — who acted as Sandoval’s personal chef — for the weight loss.

    “[Eat] everything healthy,” Pablo said in August 2013. “He goes with me everywhere… It’s going to be important for me to be in the same shape. I’ll do the work I did after the [2010] World Series. It’s important for me and for my teammates, too.”


    Sandoval told Venezuela correspondent Rafael Rojas that he lost 42 pounds before the start of the 2014 season via his offseason training program.

    After Sandoval batted .366 with a .423 OBP and 5 RBIs en route to leading the Giants to a World Series victory, rumors swirled that he was likely leaving San Francisco and the Red Sox were the front-runners for the trimmer third baseman’s services.

    Sandoval later admitted he was upset that the Giants didn’t offer him a new 7-year deal in the spring of 2014. The Giants reportedly were suspicious about Pablo’s physical condition and potential to keep the weight off.

    The result? The portly Panda went the free agent route and soon became the property of your Boston Red Sox.

    #Repost @redsox with @repostapp.
What up 🐼 @kfp48 #SoxSpring They welcome 🐼 In is new home

    A photo posted by Pablo Sandoval (@kfp48) on

    In March 2015 before his first season in Boston, Sandoval told USA Today that he was “irritated” by the Giants’ constantly making an issue of his heavy frame.

    “I’m a professional and I know what I have to do,” Sandoval said. “I know where I’ve failed and how I’ve grown up. If I had signed [with the Giants], I knew I would be under a [weight] regimen for five years, and I’m not going to be happy someplace where I’m under that kind of regimen, where I can’t be myself.”


    Fast forward to Fort Myers this weekend, a Twitter war broke out Sunday over opinions about Panda’s latest appearance.

    Good times.


    And WCVB-TV (Ch. 5) broadcaster Bob Halloran thinks Sandoval looks just fine and is being bullied by the Boston media.

    WEEI’s Gerry Callahan begs to differ.


    Adding more intrigue to the situation is the fact that the Red Sox brass and Sandoval can’t get their stories straight on whether or not Pablo was asked to lose weight this offseason. Pablo says, “Nope.” But The Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy sets the record straight.

    “When then-interim manager Lovullo met with the media in Cleveland at the end of the Red Sox 2015 last-place season, he said the Sox were going to ask Sandoval to lose weight during the winter,” Shaughnessy writes. “[Red Sox president Dave] Dombrowski said the same thing at the Winter Meetings. At the writer’s dinner in January, Farrell said Sandoval had lost 20-22 pounds. If this is true, Panda must have been in Wilfork-land when he started shedding.”


    And just for fun, CSNNE and 98.5 The Sports Hub host Michael Felger offered a hot take Sunday night: “Pablo Sandoval is a disgrace.”

      3’s Eric Wilbur checked in and puts some of the blame for Sandoval’s situation squarely on the Red Sox.

    “But whose fault is all this, really? The Red Sox knew what they were getting into when they signed Sandoval, listed at 5-foot-11, 255 pounds, but their covering for his hyperbolic offseason regimen is embarrassing for both the team and player,” Wilbur writes. “Sandoval looks no different than he did last spring, and his attitude suggests that he’s completely unaware of his surroundings, despite Farrell’s decree that the player wants to make amends after his awful, debut season in Boston.”


    You can’t shake a stick on Twitter without finding a not-so-subtle Panda joke in every other tweet today:

    And of course there’s a Twitter account named “Pablo’s Gut.”


    And when Crying Michael Jordan makes it onto Pablo’s glorious gut, it’s game, set, match.

    Pablo Sandoval illustration by Maguire. Get your own here. Follow on Twitter.

    Steve Silva
    Steve Silva, a Pulitzer Prize and Edward R. Murrow Award winning journalist, joined Dirty Water Sports in 2016. He's covered the world championship runs of the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics -- and the Boston Marathon for the past 15 years. Steve also founded the ground-breaking Boston Dirt Dogs website in 2001.




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