OAKLAND — At least the memories will always be warm.
Because the best way to describe Pablo Sandoval’s current relationship with the Bay Area would be indifferent at best and cold at worst. The Giants, his former team, still like him. But Sandoval, now a member of the Boston Red Sox, has gone from critical to uncaring to diplomatic when it comes to the franchise that signed him as a 16-year-old from Venezuela and with which he won three World Series rings.
Sandoval got the third of those rings Sunday night at the team hotel in San Francisco, presented to him by Giants manager Bruce Bochy, general manager Bobby Evans and team President Larry Baer. The foursome chatted for about 20 minutes, tweeted out some pictures then went their separate ways.
The 28-year-old Sandoval is back in the Bay Area facing the A’s, hitting a rather soft .306 with three home runs and 14 RBIs for the Red Sox entering Monday. He received a mixed reaction upon coming to the plate in his first two at-bats, but the boos were surely audible. He made Giants fans remember what they are missing when he smacked a solo homer in the 11th inning for a 5-4 victory.
For the time he visited with Giants management Sunday, things between the organization and its former heavyweight third baseman were cordial, a long way from how they were during spring training, at least from his side.
“I know what I said. I accept what I said. Maybe it came out [wrong],” Sandoval said Monday. “I meant that. I said some things but not that way.”
Then again, there is no mincing the interpretation of words when Sandoval shows indifference about the city he called his in-season home for seven seasons. When asked one day earlier by Boston reporters if he was excited about returning to the Bay Area, Sandoval brushed it aside. “What’s different about it?” he said. “It’s just another city.”
English is Sandoval’s second language, and he actually speaks it relatively well and does not mind doing interviews outside his native Spanish tongue. There is something brave in that considering his interviews are seen world wide, but it can create roadblocks when it comes to articulating himself exactly how he wants.
Maybe that was the case during spring training, when Sandoval said he missed “only Bochy” and Hunter Pence from his Giants days. “Just those guys,” Sandoval reiterated in March.
Sandoval did not back off of any of the comments he made in that interview when given the chance in March, but he did try to climb out of the hole Monday.
“The problem is it came out the wrong side,” Sandoval said, meaning he failed to say exactly what he meant. “I said what I said, and everybody read what I said. But if I’m going to tell every name that I miss, it’s going to be a long interview.”
Sandoval was a mostly well-liked in the Giants’ clubhouse and many teammates still speak highly of one of the three players to hit three home runs in one World Series game, who was the Most Valuable Player of the 2012 Fall Classic and who set a major-league record in 2014 with 26 postseason hits.
Sandoval also said he knew during spring training last year he would not re-sign with the Giants because they disrespected him and his agent during contract talks, specifically blaming then-GM and current Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Brian Sabean. That eventually led to Sandoval signing with Boston for five years and $95 million despite the Giants’ willingness to go into nine figures to keep him.
Sabean was noticeably absent from Sandoval’s ring presentation Sunday — he’s more behind the scenes these days — but the player said he had “no hard feelings” toward his former boss.
“Why am I going to feel something bad?” Sandoval said, trying to smooth his earlier comments. “It’s part of his job. He’s doing his job. I’m doing mine.”
Sandoval is clearly aware of the fuss his words can create now that they’ve actually done so. He played it safe this time. He said the right things about the Giants and that San Francisco fans “know that I love them” even though public opinion about him is now split in this part of the country, as is evident in any Twitter search.
This will blow over, though. Eventually, Sandoval’s spring comments will fade into the forgotten, and the Tiffany diamonds he helped the Giants win will be at the front of his legacy. Sandoval is already laying that foundation since he knows how quickly his words can shift perception.
“They gave me an opportunity to be in professional baseball, gave me the opportunity when I was 16 years old,” Sandoval said. “They opened the door to the big leagues. They gave me three rings. Why am I going to be sad?”