This is not a shot at casual fans in any way.  Losing Panda might mean more to the team and it’s onfield future, but people might forget something about what Sandoval did for this team.

When Pablo Sandoval came up to the majors in 2008, the team was just beginning its post-Bonds period.  They were headed towards a 4th place finish, but some things were in place.  Matt Cain was a fixture in the rotation.  Tim Lincecum was in his first full pro season, and was on his way to a Cy Young award.  Barry Zito was Barry Zito.

However, the lineup was in relative shambles.  Bengie Molina was a fixture at catcher.  The primary third baseman was Jose Castillo.  John Bowker and Rich Aurilia were splitting time at first base.  Ray Durham was finally playing healthy and at a level the Giants had hoped for when he was signed in 2003, but he was traded away.  Mr. Consistent, Randy Winn, had his last consistent season.

If you were a Giants fan, it was a rough time.

Sandoval alone didn’t fix the lineup.  Every regular starting position player other than Aaron Rowand would be turned over before the World Series happened.  Even at that point, Sandoval was no sure thing.  Juan Uribe started most of the postseason over Pablo.

But one thing did happen in 2008 that was important.

The art of taking a player’s first letter of his first name, and first syllable of his last name for a nickname (P-San) hinted enough for Barry Zito to bring up a recent kid’s film.

The Kung Fu Panda was a fitting nickname, and ultimately a lasting one.  But nicknames are rarely for anything other than good press.

But for Giants fans, it was an outlet.  The panda hat became a thing.

I’ve been a season ticket holder for many years, and have seen many trends.  But the fanbase took a turn with the panda hats.  There were good times before 2008, but about that time, San Francisco fans began doing something new: they started having fun.

Traditional baseball fans on the east coast might scoff at the things Giants fans have been doing the last few years, but there is no doubting that fans in San Francisco come out for a crazy time.  It’s gone far beyond panda hats, to full panda heads or milkman outfits and even to, yes, giraffes.  But the Giants fan turnaround predated the actual Giants turnaround.

Maybe some people might mock the panda hats as an entry point to casual fans.  I see it as what opened up being a fan to many more people.

Sandoval’s potential departure wouldn’t close that off.  But it would be the end of an era.

I don’t want to see that era end, just yet.