Admittedly, I'm a pretty big fan of you as a baseball player. Long before you joined the Red Sox, long before you were a World Series MVP for the San Francisco Giants, you were a really fun player to watch from afar. Similar to someone like Bartolo Colon, part of your appeal came because you were a rather...round guy doing incredible things on the baseball field. The agility you displayed at third was eye opening, and your innate ability to get the barrel of the bat on the barrel seemed as natural as the chemistry between Nick and Jess on New Girl: the right things just simply fell into the right places.
There was something eye-catching and fun about watching a short, round guy hit for a high average while making some flashy plays with the glove at third base. You were the Kung-Fu Panda, a lovable dude with all your weird eccentricities and rituals out there on the field.
The narrative being thrown around about your weight representing your supposed apathy feels overblown and forced. You were never a svelte dude when he was trudging around AT&T Field, anchoring the Giants lineup. It was only a few years ago that you managed to drop a pretty absurd amount of weight in the offseason and promptly failed to hit above the Mendoza Line through 153 plate appearances and 38 games. Weight loss doesn't necessarily correlate with an improvement in performance, although it certainly doesn't hurt as you age. Just ask CC Sabathia about his performance once his knees felt the years of wear and tear.
But here's the thing: you were really, really bad last year. There's no way to dance around that fact.
Especially coming off a rough season in Boston, you must have known that you needed to get your stuff together and the Red Sox especially should've known that the second you stepped foot in Fort Myers that the media was going to bombard you with questions about your weight. I'm sure you were looking forward to the day you would be told how much you sucked at getting into shape. I know I absolutely love hearing my friends pester me with the fact that I take way too long to tie my shoes for an adult human being. That being said, I would've thought you and team would have had your ducks squared away as to what the message would be regarding your conditioning, right?
"We told [Sandoval] we needed him to come back in better condition," said Red Sox manager John Farrell to media in Fort Myers. "Along with that, you anticipate there’s some potential for weight to be dropped. But there wasn’t a specific number given where we said, ‘We want you to come in at this weight.’"
So the Red Sox anticipated you could potentially drop some weight.
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"I don't try to lose weight or nothing," you said in Fort Myers. "I just do my work, feel better."
"I don't weigh in at all," you said. "I just do my work, try to do everything I can."
Spring Training is usually the time Twitter feeds flood with "I'm in the best shape of my life" headlines. You didn't even try to dance around the bush here: you didn't even try to pretend you tripped onto a scale once during this offseason. You've got to have some common sense here. Everyone wants you to lose weight. You've got to at least pretend to play the game or else you're going to look foolish. And you looked really foolish on Sunday.
Which, again, is fine. David Ortiz never took on Gisele Bundchen's figure at any point during his entire career. You've played near-Gold Glove levels in the past without ever being super slim. But you haven't done it in Boston yet and that's why you're getting crushed, and deservedly so. That's why when you didn't show up on Saturday, the day Farrell casually mentioned you were scheduled to report, you became he first baseball player the media bashed for not appearing four days before a full-squad workout.
Many athletes have been crushed under the pressure and scrutiny of the Boston media. Edgar Renteria never looked comfortable in Boston. Carl Crawford, somewhere out there, is whining about how reporters asked him tough questions in the Red Sox clubhouse after games. Sometimes the market can just be too big, the lights too bright.
Here's the solution to getting the media, the critics off your back: hit the baseball, field the baseball, and have some common sense.
Just ask John Lackey how it feels to see the tide of coverage turn from "WHAT AN OVERPAID, UNDERPERFORMING HACK THIS GUY IS" to "WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH WHY WON'T YOU RE-SIGN WITH US THIS OFFSEASON COME ON MAN." Lackey posted rWARs of 1.5 and -2.1 in his first two seasons in Boston. Everyone wanted to run him out of town. Everyone wanted him gone. He was abrasive with the media. He looked like he was showing up his teammates on the field. People thought Lackey was a punk.
And then he sat out a season and came back and posted 2.8 WAR in 2013 and pitched like an ace in the playoffs. Suddenly his abrasiveness was a sign of his competitiveness. His demonstrative nature on the field when fielders messed up represented his will to win. Lackey was a winner and a suddenly a beloved member of a World Series team.
It can happen fast. All you have to do is play baseball well.
This was not the way you wanted to start the season, with your flopping gut posted all over the internet and the media going nuts with the fact that you said you didn't try to lose weight. At this point, the public narrative is out of your hands. People think you're way too overweight, that you've thrown in the towel after cashing in, and that you're an albatross, both on the field and on the payroll.
You can take back the narrative. All you have to do is hit the baseball.
At this point, though, I'm not sure you can even do that well. I can only hope you'll prove me and everyone else so very, very wrong.