There's a reason why some people take 500 different versions of a selfie before they choose one to post on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds: sometimes, certain angles are simply unflattering. Some angles make them look fat while others make them look like they came straight out of the February edition of the J. Crew catalog.
Pablo Sandoval is by no ways a skinny, svelte human being. He's listed at 240 pounds, but that figure is likely generous. His weight fluctuates from month to month, let alone season to season. Despite all of this, Sandoval has been able to play an above-average third base defensively and has been solid at the plate throughout his entire major league career.
The conversation around Sandoval's weight grew to a point this offseason where his agent Gustavo Vasquez told Over the Monster that the third baseman retained a personal trainer who "he will stay with until he retires."
And then came this tweet from Steve Silva of Boston.com.
The photo certainly isn't flattering in the least bit to Sandoval, but the 28-year-old has never hid that he's overweight. It's not as if Sandoval went into negotiations this offseason in a baggy swuit which he subsequently ripped off to reveal a bigger-than-average belly as soon as he signed his contract. Heck, Sandoval's nickname is Kung Fu Panda, a rotund, athletic movie character who motivates himself by thinking about food.
Sandoval is basically waving his arms around and marketing himself as an overweight baseball player.
So the social media response fat-shaming Sandoval astonished me. It's no secret that Sandoval has had trouble with his weight in the past and it's well documented that players of similar girth tend to break down at an earlier age. Looking beyond the fact that the Red Sox placed more value on Sandoval's age and past production than his weight (despite the decline in OPS over the last four seasons), one of the best players currently on the team isn't the most nimble man on the planet: David Ortiz.
It wasn't long ago that Ortiz was struggling to hit for average and had seen a drop in his OPS for three consecutive seasons. Ortiz is listed at 230 pounds (although he likely weighs more than that), and although he hasn't the fluctuating weight problem that Sandoval has had, he certainly doesn't have Richie Sexson's chopstick-like physique. All the complaints over Ortiz' contracts over the last couple years haven't been about how a team could commit so much money to a player of his stature and age. Instead, it's been about Ortiz' bickering for an extra year of security. Not many complaints were made about committing significant money to a player of Ortiz' girth. The center of concern around Sandoval, however, continues to be about weight.
Remember, when Sandoval was the World Series Most Valuable Player in 2012, he didn't suddenly have a six-pack or pecs. He was the same round, oddly proportioned baseball player. Sandoval has age on his side and was continually effective for the San Francisco Giants despite his size. While we certainly don't know whether or not he will be able to be consistently productive over the length of the contract, what we do know is that Sandoval is never going to be built like an NFL running back.
After all, a differently positioned or angled camera shot could have made it look as if Sandoval was in the best shape of his career. Any sorority girl on my college campus taking selfies of herself with her Starbucks' vanilla mocha latte will attest to the fact that they need to take pictures at multiple angles to look their best for their various social networks and the media certainly isn't out to put a halt to the narrative that Sandoval's weight is an issue.
Pablo Sandoval has always been a rotund baseball player. Him showing up to Fort Myers in his consistently rotund figure isn't breaking news. Maybe Sandoval just needs a new photographer, but going crazy on social media over the new third baseman's weight certainly isn't going to solve or change anything.