Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler, where Twins fans and Miguel Sano’s home run only just recently returned to the ground. Let’s get to it:
*Long after the blast had settled, after Miguel Sano had been mobbed by teammates at home plate, after a great back-and-forth game had been fully dissected and after the importance of gaining a game on Cleveland had been digested, this thought burrowed in:
If Sano wasn’t capable of hitting a ball 443 feet (conservative estimate, it seems), would he have been in position to do exactly that for the Twins on Monday night?
That is to say: It’s hard to know how many times (if any, really) the Twins have come close to giving up on the 26-year-old slugger who made his MLB debut in 2015. But he’s been designated for assignment or traded in the minds of various Twins fans on multiple occasions. It’s correct to say, at the very least, that Sano has had more than one second chance to prove himself — and that right now he is making the most of it.
Going through his entire career arc in detail would require a significant amount of bandwidth, but the summary:
*2015: Sano burst onto the scene in the second half of the season, carrying a Twins team into wild card contention until the final weekend of the year.
*2016: He became a symbol of the Total System Failure season, starting ice cold and looking uncomfortable in right field as the Twins started 0-9 on the way to 103 losses.
*2017: This was the first second chance, and another great half. Sano was an All-Star, participated in the home run derby and was part of a Twins resurgence. But he hurt his shin during the second half, and questions about his weight started to gain traction. In late December of that year, he was accused of assault by local photographer Betsy Bissen.
*2018: Though MLB did not suspend Sano after investigating Bissen’s accusation, the process served as a more sobering backdrop — along with continued concerns about his health — for questions about Sano’s long-term place in Minnesota. The 2018 season felt like another second chance, and when he hit just .199 while battling injuries public opinion had clearly shifted. It didn’t help when a traffic incident involving a police officer in the Dominican Republic made headlines shortly after the 2018 season ended.
*2019: The make-or-break season started in a walking boot, the result of a bad luck injury suffered while celebrating the Dominican Winter League championship. It delayed Sano’s Twins debut until mid-May — at which point the Twins were already 27-15 and crushing baseballs without their one-time offensive savior. There were rumblings among plenty of fans about whether Sano’s presence would disrupt a hot team with good chemistry. He quieted those with a strong start, but from June 17 to June 27 he went just 3 for 39 with 23 strikeouts. An 0-for-7 day in a loss to Tampa left Sano’s average under .200.
And again, the question: Was this it?
But of course, since then, Sano has been brilliant: an OPS of 1.041, 10 home runs and a more manageable 37 strikeouts in 123 plate appearances — and of course that remarkable home run Monday night.
That he had the opportunity at all might be even more remarkable.
*Over in Cleveland, meanwhile, fans are debating how the 9th inning of a 1-0 loss to Texas played out. Jose Ramirez led off with a double, and then was bunted to third. The sacrifice didn’t pay off, as the Rangers escaped the jam.
*Among NFC teams, the Rams, Saints and Cowboys are primed for a regression in their win totals, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell writes. Perhaps the bad news in this for the Vikings: The Bears aren’t listed in this group.