For the past week, Miguel Sano has been on the comeback trail from the strangest injury since Marty Cordova fried himself in a tanning bed, Terry Mulholland scratched his cornea on a feather pillow, and/or Rick Aguilera strained his wrist picking up his wife’s suitcase.
So far, Sano has hit home runs at both his A & AA rehab stints, and will likely be at AAA soon. He’s still striking out a decent amount, but that’s par for the course for the big guy (and baseball in general, it seems). Right now, Miguel has a lot to prove both inside and outside of the Twins organization. His off-field antics/scandals have left his name a bad taste inside the mouths of many Twins fans, and between the lines he must prove that he can be juuuuust patient enough to get some pitches over the plate to use his prodigious power to destroy.
Perhaps the best news of all? At the moment, he isn’t really needed…and that could make all the difference in getting him primed for a productive return to the big club.
No disrespect to the overall GM tenure of Terry Ryan, but I’ve always felt that one of the big weaknesses of his “comeback tour” run was a reliance on Miguel Sano & Byron Buxton turning into Miguel Cabrera & Mike Trout, respectively. As the Twins slogged through the back half of 2011 (and 2012, and 2013, and 2014), there seemed to be a vibe around the club of “when Sano & Buxton are ready we’ll be competitive again”. I’ll take partial blame for this, as it is easy to project for the future when the current product is lackluster. But I still can’t shake the feeling that those two players were perhaps over-hyped in terms of their importance to the franchise.
As we all know, things are never that easy or line up quite that well. The Kansas City Royals went through numerous “waves” of prospect classes before finally hitting on one that got them to two consecutive World Series. Even with Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels haven’t sniffed a championship. Baseball is truly a team sport, and though some players can certainly tip the scales in a favorable direction, no 1-2 guys can single-handedly elevate a franchise. Former Twinkie Town site manager Jesse even brought up this notion in a post from early 2014.
I also wonder (though I don’t purport to know the man on any sort of personal basis) if perhaps this “savior complex”, if you will, has in certain instances gone to Sano’s head just a bit. Certainly not all of his struggles staying in the lineup consistently have been his fault alone—he had Tommy John surgery as an infielder and last season needed a titanium rod inserted in his leg. But at the moment, this is my head’s narrative for Sano: He debuted in 2015 and had immediate success. Over the next few years, his body seemed to grow proportionally along with his K-rate. Maybe he got a bit complacent thinking he could carry the team on his back with a few towering moonshots a month, and this attitude carried over to his personal life as well.
So, this latest comeback scenario seems like the perfect setup for Sano:
-Even without him, the Twins currently hold the best record in all of MLB, presenting at least a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” case regarding the roster.
-He’s going to need to be ready at 3B, as DH/1B appearances will be slim pickings with Cruz/Cron playing well.
At this point, there should be no glimmer of entitlement anywhere near Sano’s promotion to the Twins. When he looks comfortable against AAA pitching and his body/defense passes muster, he should be called up…not a minute before or after. In the long run, I’m not ready to give up on Sano. His re-emergence would allow Marwin Gonzalez to move back into a super-utility role and likely bump Ehire Adrianza off the roster (a net-gain all around).
But that’s all up to Sano now…and nobody else. Maybe as it should have been all along.