- The Giants' slumping third baseman cannot buy a hit.
Pablo Sandoval was apparently in jovial spirits on Wednesday afternoon, hobnobbing with Johnny Cueto in the clubhouse prior to the Giants’ game against the Rockies and dragging his bat up on the ground as if it were an onerous weight.
At least Sandoval is able to make light of his extraordinary struggles. After all, they’re becoming too historic to ignore.
Sandoval struck out in a pinch hit appearance during the Giants’ Wednesday game in Colorado, extending his hitless streak to an astonishing 0-for-38 slump and breaking the San Francisco-era record set by Johnnie LeMaster in 1984. Sandoval is eight outs away from tying Eugenio Velez, who went 0-for-46 over the 2010 and ‘11 seasons (a streak that is, technically, still active should Velez ever return to the big leagues). In 2011, Craig Counsell went 44 straight at-bats without a hit while a member of the Brewers, the team he now manages.
Sandoval’s last hit came on August 25 during the Giants’ 3–2 loss to the Diamondbacks. Since then, he’s 0-for-38 with seven strikeouts (though he has taken four walks!).
The decline is the newest nadir for Sandoval, who was unceremoniously released by the Red Sox earlier this season before his former team signed him to a minor league deal. Once a two-time All-Star and former World Series MVP, Sandoval is hardly a fringe big leaguer anymore. San Francisco took him on as a low-risk minor league signing after his disastrous stint in Boston, which saw him finish with a .236 average and 14 homers after the Red Sox signed him to a five-year, $95 million deal in 2014. Since the start of the 2015 season, he’s compiled a dreadful line of .229/.280/.345 with an OPS+ of 66 and just 15 home runs.
Signing Sandoval made sense for the Giants: they currently boast the second-worst record in baseball and have been no closer than 6.5 games out of first place since May 3. A cheap deal for a former star and clubhouse favorite made sense during the Giants’ uncharacteristically horrendous season. The logic, presumably, was that Sandoval could heal himself in familiar surroundings after buckling in the Boston pressure cooker that has derailed careers in the past (see Crawford, Carl) and spice up a depressed clubhouse. It hasn’t worked out that way, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Giants bench Sandoval before season’s end.
Sandoval, who is still only 31 and should be at the back end of his prime, has notoriously struggled with his weight throughout his career, which was reportedly a major reason the Giants didn’t re-sign him after their 2014 World Series campaign. A viral photo of his protruding belly during 2016 spring training turned one of baseball’s most exciting players into simple internet fodder. Despite shedding most of his excess weight before the 2017 season, Sandoval hasn’t found the swing that made him one of baseball’s most feared and unpredictable hitters during the prime of his career.
The best hope for Sandoval is that he can find a late career surge like former teammate Juan Uribe, who endured two brutal years in Los Angeles (.199/.262/.289 with six homers over 143 games) before becoming a key member on the Dodgers’ 2013 NLCS squad. But before he can rehabilitate his career, he’ll need to get a hit before setting one of baseball’s most ignominious records.