Kung Fu Panda's Star Has Fallen
San Francisco Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval had a brilliant rookie campaign in 2009. Sandoval, at just 22, quickly became a Bay area fan favorite by hitting .330/.387/.556 with 25 home runs and 90 RBIs. He even inspired a Vote For Pablo All-Star campaign and was given one of the coolest nicknames in the majors, Kung Fu Panda.
This season, though, Sandoval is suffering through a bit of a sophomore slump. The Giants have struggled mightily to score runs for much of the past half-decade, but this season has been even worse. Sandoval was expected to provide one of the few bright spots in the lineup, but even he has slumped. He has just six homers on the year to go along with a so-so line of .274/.333/.413. At one point his slump was so bad that San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy dropped him to eighth in the lineup (which, of course, may say more about Bochy’s incompetence at lineup construction.) He has also grounded into a major-league worst 18 double plays, killing many Giant rallies.
For that reason, the fans have turned on Sandoval. Indeed, as Cam Inman writes in the San Jose Mercury News, the Kung Fu Panda’s fall has caused the boo birds to come out.
Vote for Pablo. Remember that All-Star campaign last year for Giants phenom Pablo Sandoval, a fan-friendly but ultimately unsuccessful movement?
A year later, Sandoval is getting lampooned for his askew baserunning, beer-league-softball belly and, above all else, slumping bat. Call this mantra: "Pick on Pablo."
This does not faze Sandoval. Should it? Is it time he stops treating this game like, well, just a game?
Be careful what you wish from him. His happy-go-lucky attitude is an asset. The world doesn't need another jaded, disgruntled, inconsolable, elitist athlete.
How Sandoval copes with his recent failures, however, will point the Giants in the direction they will go in the second half of this still-alive season.
Obviously, it is way too early to write of Sandoval now. He is still only 23 and has a ton of offensive talent and upside. The early struggles could also be the function of a small sample size. Thus, while his weight will be a concern going forward, expect him to make the necessary adjustments to succeed so that San Francisco fans can hop bag on the Kung Fu Panda bandwagon.
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