The Twins headed to Chicago on Sunday night in possession of the second wild-card playoff berth, having won four straight against quality teams. If they keep trading away pitchers, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish.
Sunday, they received another victory from Bartolo Colon, the Round Mound of Career Rebounds; won another game without a closer; placed their best player on the disabled list; researched the next half-dozen rookies they’ll call up; and continued to stop, drop and roll toward the postseason.
This is a reminder that baseball is under no obligation to make sense.
But logic can apply to injury analysis. Saturday night, Miguel Sano, the Twins’ best player, hit a ground ball and barely made it halfway down the line. This is not merely a problem. This is a flashing red light on the franchise’s dashboard.
Sano is a unique talent. He is remarkably agile for a large man. He is a slugger who offers additional value by manning a difficult defensive position, at third base.
As Byron Buxton begins to show off the otherworldly ability that will make him a star, Buxton and Sano should be propelling the Twins toward the playoffs and a hopeful future. But there are those in the Twins organization who are concerned with Sano’s weight, whether or not it contributed to this injury.
Sunday night, the Twins placed Sano on the 10-day disabled list because of a stress reaction in his left shin. The injury was caused by a foul ball. His recovery might be affected by the amount of man that shin must support.
According to my information, Sano’s weight has gradually risen all season and is now well above 260 pounds, which is the number listed on the Twins roster. He might be 20 to 25 pounds heavier than that.
Sano is 24 and until this week he had not suffered any injuries related to his bulk, but even his strength and assorted other athletic gifts will not allow him to be the player he should be if he isn’t careful.
Pablo Sandoval comes to mind. The two-time All-Star third baseman failed to control his weight, and it has severely damaged a promising career. And for all of his talent and accomplishments, Sano has not yet put together a full, outstanding big-league season.
Sano was called up in 2015, dominated for two months and then lagged, by his standards, in September.
Last season, his slow first month contributed to the Twins’ demise, and he slumped through July and August.
This season, he earned an All-Star berth, but his production slowed in June and July.
Then came Saturday night, when Sano hit a grounder to third and barely made it halfway down the line because of his shin.
Sano possesses Hall of Fame talent, and he works at the game. He has improved dramatically at third base and he takes intelligent at-bats.
This isn’t about work ethic, and it certainly isn’t about weight shaming. It’s about diet. Sano’s bulk simply makes him even more vulnerable than most ballplayers to the pitfalls of the big-league lifestyle.
Food is everywhere, and young players often eat the worst of what is available.
I’ve seen clubhouse attendants carrying in large bags of fast food before games. The lifestyle dictates that players are often up late, while hungry and with lots of money to spend.
Major league pay and per diems encourage players to go, and eat, whole hog.
When you’re built like Buxton, dietary discipline is an option.
When you’re built like Sano, dietary discipline is a necessity.
Sano should play at about 260 pounds, if not 250. He would have more energy, would run better, would have a better chance of staying healthy and would remain powerful enough to hit the ball out to any field in any ballpark. He would also be able to remain at third base, where his strong arm is an asset.
The Twins’ future might depend on Sano controlling his weight, as well as continuing to carry it.