The online voting for the final slot on both All-Star teams ends Thursday, and San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval(notes) leads the National League. He is a worthy candidate in every respect.
Mark Reynolds(notes) has more home runs, Matt Kemp(notes) more stolen bases, Shane Victorino(notes) more runs scored and Cristian Guzman(notes) … well, it's not really apparent why someone with seven walks in more than 300 plate appearances deserves any sort of recognition, so let's chalk it up to killer facial hair.
Sandoval slays them all, and not just because his .328 batting average ranks seventh in baseball or the fact that he'd be running away with the NL Rookie of the Year award if not for 15 pesky at-bats last September that took him over the minimum of 130.
No, there are 246 reasons – one for every pound he carries on his zaftig frame – that Pablo Sandoval deserves to be an All-Star.
1-2. None of the other All-Stars are ambidextrous.
Reason No. 1 is his left hand.
"I use it to write," Sandoval said.
Reason No. 2 is his right hand.
"I use it to eat," he said. "And I can eat with my left."
Sandoval is a natural left-hander. He grew up in Venezuela idolizing shortstop Omar Vizquel(notes) and knew that left-handers don't survive at the position. So he changed for survival's sake, though he continued to pitch as a lefty.
"Curveball, changeup – every pitch left-handed," he said. "When I was a little kid, I threw better left-handed than right-handed. Not anymore."
3-4. Naturally, Sandoval hits from both sides of the plate as well. And it is his bat that should get him to St. Louis.
While most of Sandoval's at-bats come left-handed, he's been a better right-handed hitter this season. One of his biggest hits of the season, a grand slam Tuesday off a 95-mph fastball from Florida rookie Sean West(notes), came as a righty.
"Side doesn't matter," Sandoval said. "I just need a good pitch and I'm fine."
Among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances, Sandoval ranks second in baseball by swinging at a preposterous 45 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. Even more impressive: He makes contact with 77 percent of those swings, showing that even if he does go fishing, it's often not for naught.
99-140. Only a moron would ask a 246-pound man his waist size, so take these 42 numbers as what they are: an estimate.
Still, we'd be remiss to skip over Sandoval's girth. It's one of his more endearing qualities. Seeing him patrol third base is like watching a human Weeble. He scampers and dives and tumbles and always gets back up.
Put him together with Prince Fielder(notes) and Ryan Howard(notes), and the 2009 NL All-Stars would have the plumpest bench since John Kruk and Tony Gwynn(notes) were reserves in the original RBI Baseball.
141. Any fat guy who will slide into third for a triple when there is no throw deserves such visual evidence to be shared with the masses.
142-163. The final 22 reasons due to Sandoval's pear-shapedness. Promise. It's just that Sandoval took 22 seconds to round the bases following the grand slam off West. And it's not like he pimped it, either. Sandoval neither runs nor gallops nor even trots. He loafs. And unintentional loafing is something at which everyone can smile.
164-195. Including Sandoval, whose 32 teeth each deserve a reason. The man is always smiling. He's in the major leagues. He's hitting like mad. He may make an All-Star team in his first full season. He appreciates his fortune.
Oh, and he got his braces off in June, and his teeth do look good.
196-98. Because NL manager Charlie Manuel chose Fielder and Howard, the team lacks the versatility that Sandoval provides by playing three positions.
Come on. You had to expect that much out of the ambidextrous switch-hitter. In addition to third, Sandoval has played 18 games at first base this season and three at catcher, the position he played most of last season when he jumped from Class A to the major leagues in a six-week span.
"I'll stay on third base," Sandoval said. "I carry the catcher equipment just in case."
199. And just in case you doubt his acumen behind the plate, take a look at this. Yeah. That's a pretty good reason.
200-222. So are his 23 walks this season. How Sandoval manages to draw that many after taking four last season highlights an understanding that he couldn't succeed with that low a walk rate. A batting average over .300 is very good. An on-base percentage near .400 fits an All-Star.
223. To quote a certain panda bear with kung fu skills, to whom Sandoval shares a striking resemblance and with whom he shares a nickname: "He was so deadly, in fact, that his enemies would go blind from overexposure to pure awesomeness."
224-245. For each of Sandoval's 22 years. He wouldn't be the youngest player in the All-Star Game. That honor goes to Arizona outfielder Justin Upton(notes), who doesn't celebrate his 22nd birthday until late August. And only Oakland reliever Andrew Bailey(notes) has less major league service time than Sandoval.
He is a fresh face. He's dominating with aplomb. He's just the kind of person who deserves an endorsement from a more authoritative figure.
246. Uncle Sam says so.
If the other 245 reasons weren't enough, this one cuts to the heart of the argument. Only here can a chunky Venezuelan kid who looks like an animated bear, runs like an old jalopy and hits like gangbusters turn into enough of a cause for his teammates to walk around during batting practice wearing stickers that say: VOTE PABLO.
Doing anything else simply wouldn't be American.
- Pablo Sandoval