Sandoval gets Kevin Mitchell’s seal of approval

SAN FRANCISCO — When it comes to hitting, Kevin Mitchell is a flat-out genius.

That was the overwhelming impression he left me with during the brief but memorable time I spent covering him — the strike-shortened 1994 season, when Mitchell hit .326 with 30 home runs and 77 RBIs in only 380 at-bats for the Cincinnati Reds. Mitchell’s 1.110 OPS that year actually exceeded his 1.023 OPS from his 1989 Most Valuable Player season with the Giants.

Anyway, Mitchell knows hitting. So when he heaped praise upon Pablo Sandoval, whose two-run homer hastened the Giants’ 7-1 victory Sunday over the Oakland A’s, it meant something.

“He reminds me of myself,” said Mitchell, one of a handful of alumni still around after Friday’s and Saturday’s festivities honoring San Francisco’s 1989 National League pennant-winning club. “He’s letting it go. He’s not scared.”

Then Mitchell added, “He’s not the mailman.”

Huh?

“He ain’t delivering no mail. He ain’t walking,” Mitchell explained.

NOW we get it.

Mitchell seems to understand hitting much more than the average baseball person. During a chat with him while watching the Giants take batting practice Friday, he complained about the preponderance of players using light bats — or bats he considered light. Hitting the ball with something behind it, he said, is essential. Mitchell himself used a 36-inch, 36-ounce club, about two inches longer and five ounces heavier than a lot of players like to swing.

Of course, not many players could handle a bat of such imposing dimensions.

Back in our Cincinnati season, Mitchell waited in the dugout before it was his turn to hit during another batting-practice session, and we watched a reserve outfielder who happened to own something like a .220 average hit line drive after line drive. Mitchell said, without citing the hitter’s name or anybody else’s, “Isn’t it funny how some guys have one kind of swing during batting practice and another kind of swing in games?” Translation: The pressure gets to some players.

Not Kevin Mitchell. And, from what we’ve seen since last August, not Pablo Sandoval.

– Chris Haft

1 Comment

What amazes me about Sandoval is the total lack of attention he’s getting from the national media. We’re talking about a 22 year old hitting .325 with an .874 OPS, who, aside from 44 games in AA, essentially went from A ball to the major leagues.

And let’s not forget he’s hitting in a lineup where he’s not exactly surrounded by the 1927 Yankees. If he played in Boston or New York they’d be building a statue for him.

Peter Gammons, who thinks every minor league prospect is a sure fire major league star, never even mentions Sandoval.

One more thing: In his major league career (95 games), he’s made 2 errors, only 1 at third base, a position he’s just learning! Just because he doesn’t look the part, don’t think for a minute that this kid is not an athlete.

As he gets more selective at the plate (and we’re starting to see that), he could become a legitimate .340 hitter with 25-30 HR power. Maybe then he’ll stop being the best kept secret in the major leagues.

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