Extra Bases

What’s Your Gut Feeling? Is Pablo’s Pouch a Big Deal?

NAPLES, Fla. – Apparently a picture is worth a thousand words.

And then some.

When I poked a little fun at new Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s portly pose while he was standing at third base Tuesday on Twitter, little did I know what a big deal it would become on the World Wide Web and beyond.

First, I noticed San Francisco Giants fans had gotten wind of the photo, so naturally they had a field day with captions like "Fat Tuesday," "Pablown Up," etc., and felt their former player was mealing it in after grabbing a $95 million payday, courtesy of the Red Sox.

Then I started getting calls and emails about the photo, and I knew the big guy -- whom I wished good luck to just a few hours earlier when he strolled into camp -- was in for a nationwide lambasting after only one day as a member of the Red Sox. And it was a day that started off with my giving Panda some high praise for his fancy footwork in a morning drill to go along with more smooth moves when he was fielding balls at third base.

Welcome to Boston, Pablo. You’re not chillin' on the west coast anymore my friend.

So what’s the real skinny on Sandoval’s physique? Is he the same guys he’s always been? Were Red Sox fans expecting Jason Heyward to come walking through that gate and not the second coming of El Guapo? And does it matter in the long run?

The jury is still out. But everybody has an opinion.

The Big Lead says this is just a case of Pablo Being Pablo.

“If you were to pick out the beer league softball team of MLB players, Sandoval has been a long-time member,” Jason Lisk writes.

Deadspin concurred headlining with “Pablo Sandoval Remains Pablo-Sandoval-Shaped.”

Joon Lee at Over the Monster thinks it was all about my camera angle on the particular photo that blew up the internet. Nice try, but that’s the wrong focus as you can see when he’s hanging with Hanley Ramirez below:

Sandoval's belly is prominent in many photo angles. Steve Silva / Boston com

“Stop fat-shaming Pablo Sandoval, you vultures,” screamed the headline in the Big League Stew blog on, before the piece went on to feature people fat-shaming Pablo.

“Pablo is always going to look like Pablo, you know?” Sox GM Ben Cherington said a few weeks ago according to the Herald. “You’re going to notice him when he walks on the field. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. But there are no concerns on our end at this point as to whether he’s going to be where he needs to be on spring training and on Opening Day.”

Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra also wants everyone to pump the breaks on Panda’s waistline watch.

But not everyone in the media is of the mindset that Sandoval’s hefty frame is just a tempest in a teapot.

“Everyone loves fat athletes,” Jon Tomase of writes. “They're cuddly! They love to eat! They lack willpower and hate themselves, just like us! But here's the problem -- in the blink of an eye, they're fat ex-athletes.”

Besides having his big belly affect his offense, longtime scribe David Schoenfield argues that Panda’s defense will surely suffer as he ages as an obese ballplayer.

“Let’s not pretend that it's no big deal that Sandoval plays baseball with a bowling ball wrapped around his stomach,” Schoenfield writes.

“Yes, he's been a good player for the Giants. He'll likely be a good player for the Red Sox in 2015, moving to a better hitting environment where he can slap doubles off the Monster. But he'd be a better player if he did lose weight. His defense isn't affected? Of course it is.”

And one Giants coach tells the Globe’s Nick Cafardo: “[Sandoval] has quick feet and he moves well, but when he gets too heavy, he slows down and isn’t able to get to certain balls. That’s the only time I’ve seen it affect him. He needs to be reminded, ‘Hey, your weight seems to be getting up there again, watch it.’ ”

So the waist watch will undoubtedly continue as winter turns to spring and an eventual summer in Boston.

File under: He ain’t heavy, he’s my Pablo.

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