Reusse: Twins’ high hopes for Sano derailed by injuries, strikeouts

More than a half-century in the sports media and I could not muster up enough memorabilia to have a closet sale. Get home from a road trip, even to a half-dozen Olympics, and throw it all away.

I did try to keep the enamel press pins from World Series in the 1980s, but my young stepson Ryan was convinced by a collector to gather those and sell them at a bargain rate.

As for photos, there’s one with Muhammad Ali, both of us laughing uproariously. That comes from a meeting arranged by Harvey Mackay before one of his book signings in downtown Minneapolis.

There’s one with John Gagliardi, late in his life, along with his former St. John’s quarterback Tom Linnemann. There’s one taken with Tony Oliva on a recent visit to Cooperstown.

Those three, and Brian Peterson’s shot of “The Weeping Blondes” after the Vikings loss to Atlanta in January 1999… those are my prizes.

There is another taken with an athlete that I keep in the maze on the cellphone:

One with Miguel Sano at my request in early February 2015 at the Twins’ complex in Fort Myers.

There were very young grandkids at the time and the thought was, “When Miguel is among the most-famous sluggers in the majors, the youths will get a smile over this.”

I was hanging out early in The Fort for a few years. It was great to mingle with a dozen other nomads from the North on the back fields at the Twins complex.

There was always hope it might be a late morning when early arrivers Sano, or Kennys Vargas, or Adam Brett Walker, would show up for batting practice on Field 3.

If we were lucky, the legendary Phil “Babe” Roof would be there to throw BP. The Babe could flip up some cookies, to be hit over those little office buildings in right, or to bounce a ball off the two-lane road in left.

There was an unforgettable 20 minutes one morning, when Sano and Vargas – joined by Eddie Rosario – decided to wager on length of blasts.

These were used balls that had been pounded a few times. And the mighty swings produced rockets that were a danger to birds lounging in trees 425 feet or more away.

As with all Twins’ hard-core followers, I could not wait to see what Sano was going to bring on arrival in Minnesota. More than rain; thunder and lightning, we guessed.

Miguel showed up on July 2, 2015, serving primarily as the DH. He played only 80 games, yet was voted the team MVP for a season that finished 83-79, ending four straight 90-loss seasons.

Sano was all we had hoped in that half-season – 18 home runs, 52 RBI, a .269 average – but not more.

He put on some pounds with those three months of the big-league life. He would turn 23 on May 11, 2016, and the Twins wanted such a young player in the field.

Trevor Plouffe was productive as a third baseman. The Twins came up with the brainstorm of putting Sano in right field.

Boston’s David Ortiz was talking to a couple of reporters at a lunch table in spring training. Big Papi went on at length, framing the move of the 275-pound Sano to right field as the dumbest idea the Twins had come up with since releasing Big Papi in December 2003.

The failed experiment did not last long, but long enough to get this big train from the Dominican off the rails.

Sano has had his potent stretches. He was a deserving All-Star and Home Run Derby participant at midseason in 2017; then, a leg injury cost him six weeks and a big finish.

He was injured again and basically unplayable (.199 average) in 2018; he joined the Bomba Squad with 34 home runs in only 380 at-bats in 2019; he was a mess (.204 average) in 2020’s miniseason; he started a mess and rallied in 2021, with 30 home runs and 75 RBI.

But always those strikeouts – historic, astounding numbers of strikeouts.

Commissioner Rob Manfred and his brainiacs are leading the charge against baseball played with three “true ” outcomes: strikeouts, walks, home runs.

Rules are being changed to bring more action. The atom has been taken out of baseballs. The home run-or-nothing guys are being removed from the long leash, replaced by more versatile athletes.

Miguel was in better shape this spring, and still could not get to the high fastball, still could not adjust to three different pitchers for every four at-bats.

Now dealing with knee surgery, Miguel might come back and play some games for the Twins in the last third of the season. No matter. Miguel’s not tradable for the remainder of 2022, and there’s a 100% chance the Twins will buy him out for 2023 ($ 3 million, rather than a $ 14 million salary).

And what a way to have it wind up: Staring at an .093 batting average while recovering from an injury suffered while celebrating a good result from a baserunning blunder.

Story of Miguel’s Twins career right there.

Joyful moments; greatness lost.

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