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Pablo Sandoval: Giants question conditioning as sexual assault investigation continues

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(AP)

Life could not get any more serious for San Francisco Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval right now. He faces sexual assault charges brought by a 21-year-old woman from Santa Cruz County, Calif., though Sandoval's lawyer says the sexual activity was consensual.

A report in the Santa Cruz Sentinel says that the local sheriff will take at least two weeks to interview witnesses and collect evidence, but it's possible that Sandoval and the woman from Santa Cruz are the only two people who ever will know what really happened. No matter how the story ends, it doesn't end well.

Sandoval's work life isn't a trot around the bases, either. The Giants are unhappy with Sandoval's physical conditioning as he rehabs from a surgically repaired left hand. Manager Bruce Bochy, in Sandoval's fourth full season in the majors, is questioning his dedication to baseball, saying he's no good to the team if he's too out of shape to play third base.

This is what Giants reporter Henry Schulman says about Sandoval's work ethic:

I do believe that Pablo Sandoval ultimately will get serious about his conditioning. Remember, a lot of younger players have gone through this, too, including Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. What Sandoval doesn't understand yet is that if his body does not allow him to perform at an optimum level, he is essentially slapping Giants management in the face. The team gave him the benefit of the doubt by giving him a three-year, $17.5 mil deal. He needs to reciprocate by staying in shape.

It's premature and unfair to rip Sandoval for what happened in Santa Cruz. But even setting aside those colossal legal/other ramifications, Giants fans have every right to be peeved at Kung Fu Panda right now. As quoted by reporter Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area, Bochy sure is:

"He's been told we have enough first basemen," said Bochy, asked about whether a position change might be in the works for the rotund Panda. "That said, hopefully we're not forced to make a change. That's in Pablo's hands.["]

How many times have Giants reporters told us that "this is the time" Sandoval has gotten serious about his conditioning? It happens at least once a spring. Sandoval turns 26 in August. He's played nearly 500 major-league games. As Schulman said, his contract is worth $17.5 million. Some responsibility should come with all of that.

Can too much be made of Sandoval's figure? Sure. You don't have to be buff to be a great baseball player. But Bochy being this upset, and going public with it so soon after a new contract, tells us that Sandoval isn't anywhere close to meeting his responsibilities.

Sandoval is one of the better hitters in the National League. He's about 30 percent better than average, which includes his off-year in 2010. And he's in the position where a lot of people are concerned he's going to waste that talent. When is Sandoval going to meet life in the middle and get serious?

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