• Twins Prospects Carry Hot Bats, Fiery Personalities

    A slow start in Double-A had suddenly become a distant memory. Miguel Sano was on fire, enjoying his best stretch in what has been an incredible season. Over the course of five days, he had collected nine hits -- including two doubles and four homers -- with five walks and 10 RBI. In less than a week's time, the top prospect had raised his OPS in New Britain from .738 to .895.

    Following this blistering hot streak, Sano rightfully became the center of discussion in Twins Territory, but unfortunately it wasn't his play on the field that was garnering attention. Instead, it was his behavior following the last of those four homers.

    After launching a majestic bomb last Tuesday, the 20-year-old stood in place for a good five seconds admiring his work, and then smugly flipped his bat before engaging in an exceedingly slow trot around the bases.

    Brash. Cocky. Provocative. Frankly, they are qualities the Twins could use, even if Sano's action itself could hardly be condoned by anyone. While I think the issue is overblown, there has clearly been something amiss in a Minnesota clubhouse guided by the leadership of the quietly dominant Joe Mauer and the folksy, amiable Ron Gardenhire.

    I don't like what Sano did, particularly because he's putting himself in danger by showing up opposing pitchers in that manner, but I don't mind the sentiment behind it. This is a competitive sport. It's me against you, and I'm better. I'm going to win.

    Also, it sounds like there was some sour history between Sano and the pitcher, Bobby Lanigan (a former teammate in New Britain), so that adds another mitigating factor.

    While this might be the most extreme example yet, Sano has a history of showboating on the field. Considering that he's one of the premier talents ever to emerge from his native country, a top three prospect in baseball, and still a kid at 20 years old, it's naive to think he won't flash an ego and play with some swagger. The Twins know that, and I don't think they're terribly bothered by it.

    Pimping the home run was not, by itself, an especially worrisome act, but it's also not what resulted in an extended benching at the behest of his manager. Patrick Reusse detailed the events that took place after the game in an illuminating column:

    The identity of the pitcher had much to do with the extra juice Sano put into Tuesday's home run reaction. When confronted over this by Smith, notorious in the Twins' system as a hard-nosed manager, Sano basically told Smith that he would do what he chose after hitting home runs.

    General Manager Terry Ryan was watching New Britain. He talked to Sano after the game and didn't get a satisfactory response.
    There is where you can't help but get a little concerned. The descriptions here are vague but this sounds like something ranging between disrespect and outright insubordination, not only toward his team's manager but toward his organization's general manager. It's a bad sign and something that the Twins are right to punish and strongly discourage, even if the length of the benching -- which lasted four games, until the third baseman returned to the lineup Sunday -- has been criticized by some.

    Sano's incident adds to a growing trend of problematic attitude outbursts from key prospects in the Twins' system. On the same day as the "Pimpgate" scandal materialized, Oswaldo Arcia was removed from a game in Rochester for lack of hustle; Arcia's boisterous personality also created the occasional stir during his time in Minnesota. Stellar second base prospect Eddie Rosario was benched for a few games in Ft. Myers back in May for what was cryptically termed "his approach to the game."

    In his previously linked article, Reusse observes this trend and calls out the growing need for a high-ranking Latin American coach in the organization, one who could perhaps better relate with these young men and help set them on the right path. It's a great point.

    I love the passion I've seen from some of these guys. Arcia is a joy to watch, in large part because he wears his excitable emotions on his sleeve. I enjoyed hearing a story about Sano shouting into the opposing dugout that they'd better respect him when he smashed a long home run immediately after a pitch had buzzed past his head in Ft. Myers back in April.

    The makeup of the Twins roster has reflected the "Minnesota Nice" stereotype all too well over the years, with a clubhouse that could best be described as vanilla. I wouldn't say there's necessarily anything wrong with that, but I also think many Twins fans would welcome an added edge, which these fiery youngsters seem to bring to the table along with considerable skill.

    At the same time, it needs to be kept in check, so I have no problem with the measures taken to ensure that these prospects remain respectful and avoid long-term friction with the organization. It's important to remember that these truly are still kids, adjusting to a new culture and set of rules.

    Sano returned to the New Britain lineup Sunday evening and went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks. I suspect his brief timeout will ultimately be forgotten in the narrative of this breakout season, but hopefully the lesson learned will not.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins Prospects Carry Hot Bats, Fiery Personalities started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 30 Comments
    1. NealcpLA's Avatar
      NealcpLA -
      ...Maybe it's my natural skepticism or even cynicism but how did we find out that Sano essentially told Smith he would "do what he wanted when he hits a HR"? From the Twins' organization? I suspect, given Smith's "prickliness", the truth may have been something different...Smith probably wanted Sano to back down and kiss his ring and when he didn't, he went running to Ryan...I watched the video and, even though we did not see much of the time he stood before starting his trot, there is no way it was a full "5 seconds"...Agree with the one posting pointing out how "Minnesota Nice" and, essentially, 'milquetoast' the current team is and how bereft of any real fire it has been...if this organization thinks it is going to somehow berate these young Latino studs into being "nice" and playing some nonsensical "Twins way", they're going to f- it up again, just like they did with Garza, as a matter of fact...
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by NealcpLA View Post
      ...Maybe it's my natural skepticism or even cynicism but how did we find out that Sano essentially told Smith he would "do what he wanted when he hits a HR"? From the Twins' organization?
      Hearsay, courtesy of Reusse. Its a fair question. For all we know, Sano did say "yes, sir" and got suspended anyway.
    1. Siehbiscuit's Avatar
      Siehbiscuit -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Hearsay, courtesy of Reusse. Its a fair question. For all we know, Sano did say "yes, sir" and got suspended anyway.
      HIGHLY DOUBTFUL. Why suspend the #3 prospect in baseball, when he is just starting to find his groove in AA? The pimpingof the homer deserved at most a 2 game suspension, if he was contrite, likely just the next day. No way that Sano dropped a "Yes, Sir" and was suspended 4 games.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Quote Originally Posted by whosafraidofluigirussolo View Post
      .... but I've seen that pattern in sports-fan chatter before - the narratives that go around about "enigmatic" or "emotional" personalities in baseball usually aren't connected to white guys.
      Perhaps you are too young to remember, so I'll tell you a little story.

      Prior to the 1987 season the Twins picked up a guy named Dan Gladden. His career stats are underwhelming. He was, however, a man on a mission.
      Emotion? He had it.
      Swagger? He had it.

      And he was an important component to two World Series Championship teams.

      Other than punching his teammate, he was not considered disrespectful or a trouble maker. He just played with a lot of passion.
    1. savvyspy's Avatar
      savvyspy -
      Joe Mauer and dominate should never be used in the same sentence.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      It is true that the Twins need more Latin coaches across the board (including the majors). Much ado about nothing, here, though. It's good to have players who think they are good in this organization. It's good to have players who want to murder the baseball.
    1. Pbannu's Avatar
      Pbannu -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      well done, Nick... I am glad that you pointed out that this 4-game benching is not so much for pimping the home run, or showing up the other team. That has happened before. It's happened frequently. Players typically get one game off for doing that, and rightfully so. The reason this one is four games and not one or two is because of the way he talked to his manager... That would not be accepted by any organization in baseball. It just wouldn't.

      If you've seen the video, you'll notice that the 1B coach doesn't even congratulate him... and the bench is very still, quiet. They were still down by a run. With Terry Ryan and Paul Molitor and Joel Lepel there, they couldn't let it go, and they shouldn't have. If they let Sano act like that and talk back and such, you lose the whole team.

      Listen, by many reports, Jeff Smith is not liked at all as a coach. He may be gone at the end of the year anyway for all we know, but I guarantee it will not be because of the way he handled this situation.

      Sano is a good kid, but he's just that, a kid. I like his confidence and his immense talent, and I like when players show their enthusiasm, but there is a fine line and Sano very clearly crossed it.

      The key is, now that he's back and playing, that it's just completely forgotten.

      How about hiring Ozzie Guillen as Manager when Gardy gets let go! He has a fiery personality that the twins need and can talk directly with the Latin players and things don't get lost in translation!
    1. launchingthrees's Avatar
      launchingthrees -
      Well done by Terry Ryan. He's already setting up his excuses for not resigning one of the best power hitters in baseball on the basis of "clubhouse issues" Good for the Pohlads!
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pbannu View Post
      How about hiring Ozzie Guillen as Manager when Gardy gets let go! He has a fiery personality that the twins need and can talk directly with the Latin players and things don't get lost in translation!
      IF the Pohlads and Terry Ryan can't get over their love-fest with Ron Gardenhire, then I think Guillen makes perfect sense as a bench coach, if he's willing to accept the position. Tactically, I think Gardy is the better manager than Ozzie, but Ozzie brings the intangibles that Gardy can't match, including a cultural bridge. Our view, through the media, is that Guillen has long taken a shine to Gardy and the Twins way.

      The whole "gist" of the Reusse article is that the Twins management can benefit by bridging the potential cultural gap between their present management and their emerging talent base.

      Given the dust-ups in the minors, that just makes a whole lot of sense. Pbannu's suggestion (one I blogged about months ago) would be a visible commitment to building that bridge.
    1. SurroundedByTigers's Avatar
      SurroundedByTigers -
      No freaking way do you hire Ozzie Guillen as manager. The guy's a walking timebomb and no way do you want him influencing any of the Latin players. ... Now then, as much as the Twins need guys like Sano, Arcia, Rosario in the lineup in the future, I would much prefer guys like Jack Morris or Puckett or even Dan Gladden who had that internal fire and tough as nails determination to win. You never saw Morris-Puck-Gladden pimping their ride on the field. They were all business and ready to rumble. Sano, Arcia, Rosario need to understand that aspect of the game.
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