Programming note: For complete reaction to Pablo Sandoval joining the Red Sox, watch Yahoo SportsTalk Live tonight at 5 & 11 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
Pablo Sandoval did not take the home town discount after all, and that means that the home town discount is still, as it always is, a huge underdog with free agents.
Oh, the Giants dreamed in hope and lived in reality that they could retain their own Mister October without extending their comfort zone beyond its elasticity. But that’s not the way the world works most of the time, and Brian Sabean knows it better than anyone else.
So he is now part of the new Boston Red Sox infield with, of all people, Hanley Ramirez.
And in agreeing to solve the Sox’ third base/designated hitter/Chinese bamboo-eating bear issues while breaking in a new left-side-of-the-infield partner, Sandoval showed San Francisco that love is not just a sometimes thing.
Yes, October has been very very good to him. He plays like a fiend kissed by Tony Gwynn, and he is loved commensurately for it. But when things aren’t quite so good, he was the fat guy, the out-of-shape guy, and the short-career-guy-who-needs-not-to-play-third-base-anymore guy.
In short, with only a very few exceptions – Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum and now Madison Bumgarner – Giants fan love is a lot like all other fan love. Very conditional indeed.
Sandoval didn’t leave because he felt slighted by a fickle fan base, to be sure. He went for the most money and the longest term. It was, as they like to say in The Godfather, “beez-a-neese.”
But he didn’t weigh the Giants as a special team or the area as a magical place because of the times when the fan base loved him. He’d seen the backhand of their love plenty of times, so San Francisco seemed less special to him than it does to the people who live here year-round.
Plus, the ballpark still sits on home run hitters, much more than Fenway Park. True, he’ll do better right-handed than left in that yard, what with its dimensions and the Green Monster, but that’s something the Giants cannot compete with unless they are planning to demolish the brick wall in right field, and you know how reluctant the front office is to deal with contractors.
So Sandoval has left, and the Giants need a third baseman in the worst way – the worst way meaning, of course, that they have to go out and buy one in a threadbare market.
Posey is not an option because not only does he not want to be a fulltime third baseman, he is now too valuable as a receiver, pitch framer and pitcher-whisperer. In addition, Sabean has said more than a couple of times that there is no solution “in-house,” which tells you where the minor leagues sit on third basemen.
In sum, Sandoval is gone to more clement climes because his love for the Giants was as conditional as theirs was for him. He provides a helpful reminder for the fan base when this matter comes up again, namely:
San Francisco is a really nice place to be a baseball player. So are other places. And in the end, when you have to bet, bet on the cash and the calendar, because money and contract length win way more often than anything else.