By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — It’s hard to believe how quickly Pablo Sandoval’s star has faded. It seems like just yesterday when … actually, wait — it’s not at all hard to believe. When the Red Sox decided to throw $100 million at Sandoval some two-and-a-half-years ago, the reaction from most observers was one of befuddlement.

Are you sure you really want to invest all those years and all that money on … him?

Those doubters, of course, have proven to have been prudent. Sandoval promptly posted career lows in average, on-base, and slugging in 2015 while also owning the third-worst fielding percentage among AL third basemen. And it’s only gotten worse since then.

He showed up out of shape to camp in 2016 before playing in just three games all year. In 2017, he’s played in 32 of a possible 72 games, and his next MLB game remains unknown.

The man who wrote that contract has since been fired, and the player himself has now been deemed so useless by John Farrell this week that the manager pragmatically decided that it would be better to stick a catcher at third base in a close game than to let Sandoval bat in a big spot.

Now on the DL with an ear infection — is that a first, by the way? — Farrell said that Sandoval will probably be going on a rehab stint after his infection heals. Clearly, despite a dire situation at third base, the team is in no hurry to get Sandoval and his .212 average back to the big leagues.

The whole situation really makes it feel like the end is near for Sandoval in a Red Sox uniform. For that to happen, of course, the Red Sox would almost assuredly need to eat the roughly $50 million left on Sandoval’s contract, as finding a team willing to pick him up and pay him would be impossible.

And so, given that the mood is tense regarding Panda Watch, it’s a fine time to look back at the day when the Red Sox introduced Sandoval to Boston — a day of great promise and hope that looks almost comical in retrospect.

sandoval Throwback Thursday: The Promise And Hope Of Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval at his Red Sox introduction, Nov. 25, 2014. (WBZ-TV)

“I want a new challenge. I made that choice to be here in Boston because I need a new challenge. I need to lead that team, with the legacy they have here, the fan support they have here. That’s why I had to make sure that I made the right decision. It took me a long time. Now I’m here to help them be in the postseason again.”
–Pablo Sandoval, Nov. 25, 2014

This quote has not aged well. Sandoval didn’t do much leading in 2015, except for leading the team in errors. And getting hit by pitches.

The Red Sox also missed the playoffs by just a hair at 78-84, good enough for last place in the AL East and eight games out of a wild-card spot.

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Ben Cherington (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

“Pablo was a primary target of ours to start the offseason. As I had discussed with many of you, it was important to us to add another really good left-handed bat, or in Pablo’s case a switch-hitter, to our lineup, and third base being an obvious place to do it.”
–Ben Cherington, Nov. 25, 2014

One of the many curiosities of the Sandoval era in Boston, the switch hitter abandoned the practice early on in 2015.

Out of nowhere, Sandoval started batting lefty against lefties … and he never went back. He batted right-handed for just 43 plate appearances in 2015, which was a rather significant drop from 205 the year before.

None of his seven plate appearances in 2016 came from the right side, and he’s hit .150 as a righty thus far in 2017.

Clearly, when the Red Sox dedicated so much money to Sandoval, his abilities as a switch hitter factored in to the decision. The Red Sox have not gotten what they paid for in that regard.

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Larry Lucchino and Ben Cherington (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

“He really embodies a lot of what we care about. This is a guy that has been a big winner. He’s been a performer when it counts the most. He’s respected as a teammate, loves to play and we think he really fits what we’re all about here and we’re really looking forward to having him in a Red Sox uniform in the middle of our lineup for years to come. … Just look at who he is now. He’s a player in the prime of his career who’s able to play a tough position at a high level. He’s been a very good hitter at that position, including moments when it counts the most.”
–Ben Cherington, Nov. 25, 2014

This is admittedly a very imperfect measurement of anything in the sport of baseball, but here you go: In games Sandoval has started since 2015, the Red Sox are 70-82. Some quick math shows that the Red Sox are therefore 146-98 in games not started by Pablo Sandoval during that same time.

If he’s a winner — and he was in San Francisco — then it’s yet to show in Boston.

“I’m going to be taking care of those [weight-related] things to play third base.”
–Pablo Sandoval, Nov. 25, 2014

Yeah, no. Look, the weight thing is clearly an issue, one that needn’t be made light of. But when a man has all the time in the world to exercise and all the money in the world to pay for nutritionists and chefs, there is an element of responsibility that comes with signing a five-year contract for nearly $100 million.

Instead of living up to it, after a disappointing 2015, he showed up to camp in 2015 looking to be completely out of shape. Instead of holding him accountable and expressing disappointment, team owner John Henry made up some phony baloney about “17 percent body fat ratio.” Sandoval’s belt exploded two weeks later.

Hey, speaking of Mr. Henry …

gettyimages 475651838 Throwback Thursday: The Promise And Hope Of Pablo Sandoval

John Henry (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

“I think the risk of doing nothing was much larger. The risk is avoiding free agency. You can’t put together a winning ballclub just through the minor league system. To me that would be really risky.”
–John Henry, Nov. 25, 2014 

If there’s one thing about which Henry has been consistently inconsistent, it’s been spending money on free agents. In one moment, you have to get rid of Jon Lester because you can’t pay a pitcher big money past the age of 30. In the next moment, you’re making David Price the richest pitcher ever.

And then some offseasons you have to dedicate a couple of hundred million to Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez … because not doing that would be … very risky?

You’re difficult to read, Mr. Henry.

“Ben didn’t sign one guy. It was a two-for-one deal. The panda is with me.”
–Pablo Sandoval, Nov. 25, 2014 

Well, this one had a lot of truth. There’s no denying the marketing angle that likely made some members of Red Sox ownership excited to welcome in KUNG FU PANDA! Panda hats! Panda shirts! Panda toys! Panda emojis! Panda pandas!

They didn’t end up being huge sellers.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


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