COMMENTARY | The Miguel Sano Story became the Miguel Sano Saga on Tuesday, July 23, when one of the Minnesota Twins' prized prospects was benched for disciplinary reasons. The benching ended Sunday, and now the Twins hope they and Sano can turn the page.
The official reason for the benching was that he broke team rules. The benching came after Sano hit a home run off former teammate Bobby Lanigan, admired it while the ball sailed over the fence, and then took a very long trot around the bases.
Paul Molitor, a Hall of Famer and roving minor-league instructor for the Twins, told ESPN 1500 that Sano was expected to miss a few games because of "how he handled himself following a home run." It turned out to be four games.
A four-game benching for an over-the-top celebration of a home run seems excessive. When Sano was not in Saturday's lineup, numerous Twins fans and media members took to the Internet and railed against the excessive abuse of Sano and wondered about a growing rift between Sano and Twins management.
Minnesota Twins Prospect Miguel Sano Reportedly Tells Off Manager to His Face
However, this is likely much more than a simple on-field faux pas by an emotional 20-year-old player. According to Patrick Reusse's blog on the "Minneapolis Star-Tribune's" website, Sano was confronted after the home run by New Britain manager Jeff Smith, who is "notorious in the Twins' system as a hard-nosed manager," and "Sano basically told Smith that he would do what he chose after hitting home runs."
Now, suddenly, this is not about showing respect to opponents, but showing respect to your manager. This is something that cannot be overlooked as youthful exuberance.
Reusse also reported that Sano and Lanigan had gotten into a loud confrontation when Lanigan was still with New Britain. So, Sano was most likely in a highly emotional state after the home run. That a young player in this condition would butt heads with a hard-nosed manager should not be surprising. This could very well be an overreaction from Smith.
The Twins have made it clear that the length of the benching was up to Smith. However, they have shown support of Smith. General manager Terry Ryan also had another team employee talk to Sano after the incident, and, according to Reusse, he got a response that "was not satisfactory to the Twins."
This also is not the first time that Sano was overly emotional following a home run. Earlier this year while playing in the Florida State League, Sano was ejected for yelling, "You might want to respect me!" into the opposing dugout after a long home run. This came after the Palm Beach Cardinals had thrown at his head multiple times, including the pitch before the home run. Last season, Sano's reaction to a tie-breaking home run in the ninth inning caused both benches to clear, but no punches were thrown.
The Twins are walking a fine line with Sano. They like his confidence and passion. They've expressed praise for his leadership and work ethic. However, they appear to be concerned about his respect for the game and might even be concerned about confidence turning into cockiness.
Minnesota Twins Prospect Miguel Sano Has Been in the Limelight His Entire Life
After all, this is a player that grew up as one of the best hitters and shortstops in the Dominican Republic, which is like being one of the best point guards in Indiana or one of the best quarterbacks in Texas.
While playing baseball in the Dominican Republic, he was followed by cameras just about everywhere he went for a documentary about baseball on the island while major league scouts watched his every move. He then was given a signing bonus of more than $3 million when he was just 16 years old.
He has excelled at every level in the minor leagues while being one of the youngest, if not the youngest, players in the league. He again is being followed around by cameras for a second documentary that is just about him and his journey to the major leagues. He also is friends with New York Yankees star and fellow Dominican Robinson Cano.
It's not hard to see how a player might get a big head. However, the Twins need to be cautious. They need to rein him in without doing irreparable harm to their relationship with him. Once he reaches the major leagues, the Twins will have him under control for at least six years, but there are ways for a player to force their hand if a relationship becomes too badly damaged.
The good news is that Sano appears to have taken his discipline in stride, at least with his outward demeanor. Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he had received reports that Sano reacted very well to the benching and had even coached first base on Saturday.
The Twins will undoubtedly dismiss this as a youthful indiscretion and a learning experience for Sano. Hopefully, Sano will view it as a learning experience as well. The Twins could use some more passion, confidence and competitiveness. They could use a right-handed power bat even more.
Regardless of what happens from here, this will make a great episode for the movie.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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