Last year I closely followed Camp Panda, Pablo Sandoval’s allegedly intense workout regimen that was intended to get the portly young superstar in shape. That didn’t happen. Sandoval reported to spring training in more or less the same shape he had been in in 2009 and got larger as the season progressed, ultimately losing his starting job. Which worked out fine for the Giants, of course, because with him on the defacto DL (15 days; gravy), Juan Uribe moved to third, Edgar Renteria returned to shortstop and they carried the team to the title.
And while yesterday’s signing of Miguel Tejada was occasioned by reports that Sandoval will be the Giants starting third baseman, you can bet that Bruce Bochy is more than willing to slide Tejada over to third and find a cheap glove man for short in the event that Sandoval, once again, fails to do the one thing completely within his control: report for duty in shape to play baseball.
You can bet that Sandoval’s agent is well-aware that Miguel Tejada can play third base. Because last night, soon after the news broke, he or someone close to him told Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News that Sandoval has lost ten pounds so far this offseason.
I’m off the Camp Panda beat this winter because last year it was a dud. As such, I will merely pass along reports of Sandoval’s weight loss rather than dwell on them. Good for him if he’s lost the weight. Forgive me, however, if I don’t get excited about it until a relatively thin version of the man shows up for camp in Arizona in February.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.