• 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. Old Twins Cap's Avatar
      Old Twins Cap -
      Sano's a man. Let him play like a man. You don't see the baseball people in Boston calling for Ortiz to be benched after he took a bat to a bullpen phone, then had to be restrained by his manager, screamed at by Pedroia -- all in a game they were winning handily and because Ortiz felt a couple of strike calls were overly generous. Sano will be okay if you surround him with serious ballplayers who want to win. Do not neuter his machismo.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      The Twins way.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      That Reusse article has changed a little. Instead of reading
      General Manager Terry Ryan was watching New Britain. He talked to Sano after the game and didn't get a satisfactory response
      it now reads

      Ryan also had another team employee talk to Sano. Apparently, Sano's response was not satisfactory to the Twins. So, the No. 3 overall prospect in the minor leagues sits at Jeff Smith's discretion.
      Since Ryan was at the game I wonder if the "team employee" is just the translator he and Sano conversed through.

      Imagine a frustrated Ryan, sweating and livid, trying to pass a verbal chastisement through, say, this guy. Might lose a little punch.
    1. Pitz's Avatar
      Pitz -
      As I was reading about the Twins 'vanilla' personality and need for some fire, I couldn't help but think of Torii Hunter picking up the ball after being beaned and chucking it back at the pitcher.
      That is all.

      Thanks for the solid article.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      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.
    1. gilesferrell's Avatar
      gilesferrell -
      Well said Nick!
    1. Waverley Wildcat's Avatar
      Waverley Wildcat -
      Baseball thank goodness is a game that can level out everyone, the bigger you think you are the bigger you can fall, I hope Sano's attitude to his team mates is sincere like when on Sunday he also struck out twice and made another one of his growing errors, hopefully he will learn that you can have that bit of fire in your game but you cannot disrespect the game.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      Quote Originally Posted by Waverley Wildcat View Post
      Baseball thank goodness is a game that can level out everyone, the bigger you think you are the bigger you can fall....
      Yeah, I guess Sano may have to learn that the hard way. Besides needing to show better respect toward club management and the game itself, I hope he realizes now that he's in AA for nothing but to put in the work necessary to advance. Bat flips may be considered colorful, or "playing with swagger," once he's proven himself in the majors. In AA, he's just a punk with a lot of promise in AA, riding the bus with all the other kids. Why act like that in AA? Does he think he's already arrived?

      If he learns those lessons, maybe we can avoid another Matt Garza situation.
    1. bigd1123's Avatar
      bigd1123 -
      Great post.

      As much a I think the Twins are doing a good job handling these young prospects, I can't help but be encouraged by the fire these kids have.

      The Twins best team in recent memory was when they lost to the Angels in the ALCS. There were players on that team (Meintkewicsz, Pierzinski, Hunter) that showed the same qualities. They didn't take any s*** from the other team and were quick to talk trash if something needed to be said. They excelled as much because of that ultra competitiveness as they did their talent. Since those players departed, we've had more talented teams and more talented players play like scared girls in New York, Boston, and the playoffs.

      These kids need to be respectful to the game and their managers, but its the first time in a long time I've seen anyone in the organization that may have that extra something to take the team where we all want to see it go.
    1. Blackjack's Avatar
      Blackjack -
      You don't suppose that the $3 million dollar bonus that he already has in the bank affects his attitude, do you? He could quit baseball tomorrow and be a very rich man where he came from.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Absolutely unnecessary article.

      We have been hashing and re-hashing this for days in the Minor League forum.

      I had hoped that Sano's presence in last night's line-up would put an end to all the speculation and discussion.

      I'm betting that historically there have been a number of times when the Twins disciplined minor leaguers (even future stars) for a variety of reasons. Prior to the advent of the blogosphere, they were probably minor blips on anyone's radar.

      It is time to move on and put this subject behind us.
    1. whosafraidofluigirussolo's Avatar
      whosafraidofluigirussolo -
      Well written, a good take on the situation.

      Couple things:
      - The identity of who actually talked to Sano after the game is significant. If it was in fact a translator, I think that's the best case. For all the help that I think MLB organizations provide in not just coaching their Latin-American players to play but helping them live in the U.S. (and from what I understand, the help that orgs. give players with lodging, language, etc. has improved significantly over maybe 10-20 years ago), there are still plenty of situations where a player is on his own to deal with communicating with media, management or other players. This is not to say that Sano should get away with attitude issues that are clearly detrimental to his team or his future; it's just that a confrontation with a "hard-nosed" manager or a questioning from the GM (the boss's boss's boss, basically) is not a situation where anyone should split hairs about exactly how "satisfactorily" the player, probably facing some degree of communication barrier, answered.

      This gets to a larger issue, related to the suggestion that the Twins should have a higher-ranking Latin-American coach or front-office employee. That's a good idea, but the Sano, Arcia and Rosario incidents cited above are not the reason why. I think that there's some danger of drawing an implicit or assumed connection between players' Latin-American nationalities and "fiery" personalities on the field.
      Not that anyone here has done that (Nick or the commenters above), 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. Point is that hiring a high-ranking Latino coach (or assistant GM, etc) is a good idea to help players communicate with coaches and management better, in general, not because of some specific set of "attitude" concerns.

      - You described Sano's history with Lanigan, who gave up the home run, as a mitigating factor in the dust-up, but it sounds like the team didn't feel that way, and rightly not - a player letting previous bad blood influence him to show up an opposing player or team makes the transgression worse, not better, IMO.
    1. Smcginnity's Avatar
      Smcginnity -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Absolutely unnecessary article.

      We have been hashing and re-hashing this for days in the Minor League forum.

      I had hoped that Sano's presence in last night's line-up would put an end to all the speculation and discussion.

      I'm betting that historically there have been a number of times when the Twins disciplined minor leaguers (even future stars) for a variety of reasons. Prior to the advent of the blogosphere, they were probably minor blips on anyone's radar.

      It is time to move on and put this subject behind us.
      I wouldn't say it was unnecessary. That is the point of this blog, to educate the fans. The forums are just opinions or links to articles about what may have happened. This article finalizes the details. Now, yes, we can move on. But, I think it was necessary for the Twins Daily team to write about it.
    1. PeanutsFromHeaven's Avatar
      PeanutsFromHeaven -
      Like most everyone else I've got to point out how good this article is, and I also wanted to point out a particularly relevant point

      Quote Originally Posted by whosafraidofluigirussolo View Post
      I think that there's some danger of drawing an implicit or assumed connection between players' Latin-American nationalities and "fiery" personalities on the field. Not that anyone here has done that (Nick or the commenters above), 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. Point is that hiring a high-ranking Latino coach (or assistant GM, etc) is a good idea to help players communicate with coaches and management better, in general, not because of some specific set of "attitude" concerns.
      There's absolutely a racial component to Sano, Arcia and Rosario's behavior, just as there's a racial component to Mauer, Gardenhire Ryan's and everyone eles's behavior. The more the Twins are able to bridge the gap between cultural attitudes and expectations the more success the team can expect in the future (perhaps with a brash Mentkiewitcz and a retired Johan on the coaching staff).
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      remove, attachments are not showing correctly.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      I agree with the crux of your article - it was the reports of insubordination I found most disturbing - not that I'm a "respect authority" type, but it just doesn't bode well for the long-term future of a player in this organization if they can't get with the program.

      If Sano fails as a prospect for the Twins, I want it to be on the field performance that determines it, not off-field drama. Garza didn't want to do it the Twins way, he was shipped away, and has been missed ever since.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Great work Nick. This article echoes my sentiments on the whole situation and the Twins overall attitude as a team recently. https://twitter.com/MNTwinsGUFS/stat...55781031165953
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Nice article Nick.

      I wonder what would have happened had Ryan talked to Sano before Smith had? Obviously it would have been odd for the manager not to talk to the player first, but if Smith does have a history of being difficult, disrespect from a player is probably not uncommon. The attitude with the GM is probably the surprising part. However, Sano thought he was in the right to show up a former teammate he had a dust up with, and if he had already gotten into hot water for mouthing off to the coach who he may or may not like, stubbornnes for his cause likely would have caused him to carry the same tune with the GM.

      Had Ryan, with whom Sano presumably does not have an issue, calmly and civilly talked to Sano first (again which would have been odd) he very likely would not have gotten the same hot headed response that Sano had already created to defy the manager he may or may not like.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Monkeypaws View Post
      I agree with the crux of your article - it was the reports of insubordination I found most disturbing - not that I'm a "respect authority" type, but it just doesn't bode well for the long-term future of a player in this organization if they can't get with the program.

      If Sano fails as a prospect for the Twins, I want it to be on the field performance that determines it, not off-field drama. Garza didn't want to do it the Twins way, he was shipped away, and has been missed ever since.
      Not to derail the thread but Garza's beef with the Twins was pitch selection. In the minors he relied on his fastball. He didn't like that the Twins did not want him to throw it as much as he wanted to. The irony is that is as he has progressed in the majors he uses his fastball less.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Not defending anybody's actions here. Part of the maturation process is learning to shut up and just say "Yes, sir". You don't have to believe a single word of it, but realize you are not going to get anywhere fighting it either.
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