Panda Hat

Yesterday the San Francisco Giants’ third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, was signed to a five year contract with the Boston Red Sox. I’m an A’s fan, but not a Giants hater like one of my friends. Still, how can I put this…  Bwahahahahaha!

Of course, baseball players move around to different teams all the time. But this one feels different. Pablo Sandoval, or Panda, as he is called, is one of the few baseball players that fans have come to associate with one team. He is (was) part of the Giants’ brand.

It’s no wonder. He came out of the Giants farm system and has since helped them win three World Series Championships in the past five years. In 2012 he was the World Series MVP. But more than that, his nickname has become synonymous with the Giants, spawning an avalanche of kitschy marketing, including the ubiquitous panda hats worn by Giants fans at their games.

The panda hats are either loved or loathed by baseball fans. Baseball purists see the hats as a manifestation of everything that’s wrong with the Giants brand, from their gimmicky baseball stadium, to the players’ nicknames (Panda, Fear the Beard, The Freak, Baby Giraffe, etc.), to the t-shirts (Let Time Smoke; Let Pablo Eat, etc.). Of course, in San Francisco, all the meta-level stuff just feeds the fans’ frenzy for what is, undeniably, a franchise on a roll. The Giants sell out every game.

So, it’s very ironic that the Panda is now going to play for the Boston Red Sox, which are the very definition of baseball stodgy, with an uptight and unforgiving fan base. I sense that this is a bad move for Sandoval. If you read the comments on Red Sox Nation there is already grumbling about the Panda’s weight issues. He is a streaky hitter, so my guess is that he is about one slump away from feeling the wrath of Red Sox Nation.

I think I can imagine how the Giants fans feel. The Panda had a chance to stay. The Giants had made a competitive offer, so the fans must feel like a jilted lover right about now.

I wish the Panda well. He provided a lot of entertainment value, even if you’re not a Giants fan. Good luck in Boston, Panda, and say hello to Yoenis Cespedes when you get there.