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Miguel Sano And Negativity Bias

We've been down this road before. Miguel Sano comes under siege from a local columnist who finds specious reasoning to grind an ax over the young slugger's purported lack of commitment. Patrick Reusse did it last spring, and a week ago Jim Souhan published a similarly toned piece.

Are these scribes calling Sano lazy? They'll say no, but the columns undoubtedly lead the reader in that direction. Which is ironic, since what's truly lazy is the story line these veteran newspapermen keep peddling.
Image courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas, USA Today
Sano is an easy target for errant criticism, because he is big, and he strikes out a ton. You could argue both are inhibiting factors, but they are part of who he is. Every player has his inhibiting factors, and in this case, they also contribute to what makes Sano great.

And let's make no mistake about it: he is great. Already, at age 24, and he's likely on his way to becoming even better. There is much to celebrate about where Sano is and where he's going. He surpassed 70 career home runs when he went deep twice against Arizona last weekend, just before going on the disabled list. He reached that mark quicker than anyone in franchise history, by a longshot:



Sano's historic power is enabled by his size and strength, his ferocious cuts – the very same things criticized by anyone who's looking for a grievance to air.

"He's getting too big." Well, that's who he is, a large man. "He strikes out too much." Well, that's what he is, a hard swinger prone to strikeouts as well as tape-measure shots.

It is well established in psychology that humans have an implicit negativity bias; we are more apt to remember something bad than good, an evolutionary trait. It is, as the linked article states, "the same reason political smear campaigns outpull positive ones."

By hounding upon Sano's ostensible weight control issues, these columnists are guilty of succumbing to negativity bias, while also planting it in the minds of their readers. The Strib platform entails a certain level of responsibility, and there are consequences for actively working to shape perceptions like this.

I much prefer the way new Twins GM Thad Levine is openly embracing the overwhelming positives of the Miguel Sano experience. Here's how he talked about his inherited All-Star at the Baseball Prospectus Target Field event a few weeks ago:

I will tell you, he wants to be great. This is a guy who has an amazing amount of energy, loves the game of baseball, is smiling from ear to ear. Leaders come in different shapes and forms, but I'll tell you, from an energy standpoint, this guy's love of the game is palpable and will get us through a 162-game season. That, and he also can hit the ball a very, very long way.


The key to that statement: "Leaders come in different shapes and forms." Sano's physical shape and form do not define him, nor do they preclude him from being productive or healthy. I'm sure people made the same "dietary discipline" remarks about Prince Fielder but from age 24 through 29 he missed three total games and hit 200 home runs.

Sano is, in Souhan's own words, "remarkably agile for a large man." He gets the job done at the hot corner and moves well enough around the base paths. He leads the Twins in OPS, and even during his slumps he's still a relatively solid performer, never a liability. His absence has certainly been felt since the DL move, with Eduardo Escobar representing a severe drop-off in the cleanup spot, and games like Thursday's 5-1 loss to Chicago feeling strongly impacted by his non-presence.

But Sano had played in 111 of the team's 121 games before going on the shelf due to a foul ball in the shin. He has taken approximately 35 fastballs to the left wrist, and kept on chugging along.

To write these kinds of columns for a Minnesota sports audience almost feels treacherous, and hugely ill-advised when you think about the big picture. We should all collectively be trying to woo this generational hitting talent into sticking around. One day in the not-too-distant future, Sano will be approaching free agency, and will more than likely have suitors lining up for his services.

If he chooses to go elsewhere, Souhan and Reusse will surely be lamenting another star player who left the small market via free agency to chase the spotlight and the big dollars.

Maybe they could've tried harder to appreciate what they had, while they had it.

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83 Comments

Nice counter article.  For whatever reason Sano is not my favorite guy to watch but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate what he brings to the table. Vargas just isn't in the same class and Escobar should be batting 7-9 rather than cleanup.  Buxton and Mauer are my favorite.  Dozier, Polanco and Rosario have been very good and Kepler is a useful piece.  With the roll Polanco and Buxton are on, having Sano and Grossman in this lineup makes it formidable.

    • glunn, gagu and MN_ExPat like this

Negativity sells. Look at any thread that starts with a rip on something versus a positive spin one.The negativity goes on and on, the positivethreads draw few responses.Management and established players are the first target. Players that are fringe are the third target.

    • peterb18, dbminn, gagu and 2 others like this
Reusse and Souhan can write some nice nostalgia pieces from time to time. Take them seriously?! Couch potatoes do not great players or coaches make. Doom and gloom from columnists like them and Tom Powers are part and parcel of the old Minnesota defeatist sports complex that waaaay to many fans buy into..
    • peterb18, gagu, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this
Sano is a very good player. But all that said, it would be nice if he struck out less and lost 15ish pounds. It's a fair observation.
    • h2oface, spanman2, NoCryingInBaseball and 4 others like this

Thank goodness there's no negativity bias here! By the way Nick, I think Dozier passed your 22 HR prediction.

    • h2oface and spanman2 like this

I haven't heard the laziness angle for a long time. It's certainly not fair to raise this year. 

    • peterb18, DaveW, Vanimal46 and 5 others like this

I do like Levine's on-the-record quotes on Sano from the BP interview... I do wonder which Twins person gave Souhan that information off-the-record. Clearly someone did... Could have been anyone, player, coach, manager, Falvey or Levine. 

 

For me, the timing of that article was really unfortunate. There's nothing wrong with saying that Sano's weight is and will be a concern. That's just a reality of being him. As you point out and everyone knows, he is a large man. The article was just really poorly timed. 

 

And that's without thinking about the theoretical might-be's for when Sano leaves via free agency (which of course will likely be much more about Roc Nation than about anything Souhan or Reusse or anyone at KFAN might say. 

I think you have reading bias. I don't get the same "tone" from the article you do, Nick Nelson.

    • KGB and jimmer like this
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Nick Nelson
Aug 27 2017 05:27 PM

 

I think you have reading bias. I don't get the same "tone" from the article you do, Nick Nelson.

Interesting. You should check out the dozens of replies to the Strib's tweet linking to the article. I'm hardly the only one who perceived it as such. 

 

 

Thank goodness there's no negativity bias here! By the way Nick, I think Dozier passed your 22 HR prediction.

Huh?

 

 

    • peterb18 and Vanimal46 like this
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Nick Nelson
Aug 27 2017 05:39 PM

 

Sano is a very good player. But all that said, it would be nice if he struck out less and lost 15ish pounds. It's a fair observation.

Phrased that way, sure it is. But here's an honest question: what if working toward those goals sapped some of his power, or prevented him from focusing on improving his strengths?  

 

"David Ortiz is a good player. That said, it would be nice if he hit the ball the other way more."

    • peterb18, Siehbiscuit, the blade and 9 others like this
Warning!!!! hot sports opinions incoming :)

Souhan and his ilk are why nobody reads local newspapers anymore. He's just writingg this nonsense for page views/paper buys but luckily people are smart enough to see through what it is.

Complete garbage. Unreal the hit piece that he publishes the second Sano gets hurt.
    • peterb18, SwainZag, Vanimal46 and 3 others like this

If he chooses to go elsewhere, Souhan and Reusse will surely be lamenting another star player who left the small market via free agency to chase the spotlight and the big dollars

 

I don't see it as the local columnist's job to recruit future free agents to stay.

 

Also, whenever I see/hear the Harmon Killebrew 'start of career' comparisons, I cringe.The rules at the time created a situation where Killebrew was forced to remain with the major league club from the moment he signed at 17 years of age.His first 110 games or so, he was nothing more than a bench player, frequently appearing only to pinch-hit, and averaging no more than 2-3 plate appearances per game overall.And again, he was 18,19,20 years old at the time and should have been developing somewhere on a minor league field.

 

Sano...I'm torn on Sano.I love him.I love his demeanor on the field and what we can see in the dug-out.Seems to almost always have positive body language and displays a ton of energy.Also seems truly engaged and the first to congratulate teammates when they do well...even when he is struggling.I think that is NOT that common and I think it's huge.

 

I also happen to believe that Sano is a better athlete and more agile than the average fan (even the average TD poster) can even imagine.He's just a huge athlete.I believe that if he had grown up in the US he'd probably have ended up having to make a decision between D1 offensive/defensive lineman or baseball.(I think one of Howie Long's kids got drafted by MLB and ended up making the football lineman choice...but when you're from the DR, you don't end up with that option.)

 

On the other hand, I do think it's a part of being (or becoming) a professional that you develop disciplines than enhance your craft.In Sano's case, if he is to reach true greatness...MVP/HoF-type greatness...he'll need to do two things.He'll need to obtain and maintain a leaner body and he will need to adjust to off-sped pitches away.When you're as talented as Sano, you can be good...you can be an all-star...without the sacrifices and improvements.  But how good does he want to be?It's up to him.For now, I'll enjoy him for what he is.But eventually, the bar will be raised.It always is for the best players.Sano is not the first to face this.

    • matthew0211 likes this

Phrased that way, sure it is. But here's an honest question: what if working toward those goals sapped some of his power, or prevented him from focusing on improving his strengths?

"David Ortiz is a good player. That said, it would be nice if he hit the ball the other way more."


That's fair. I find it hard to believe that losing a little weight would hamper him in a meaningful way, and would have benefits.

The k rate is interesting to consider. If hr cuts it 5-10% he is an absolute monster. If it rises 5-10% more he will struggle to stay in the league. He is living a little dangerously. I personally think he will make the adjustments and bump it down a little. Remains to be seen if that costs him power.
    • adorduan likes this

I do like Levine's on-the-record quotes on Sano from the BP interview... I do wonder which Twins person gave Souhan that information off-the-record. Clearly someone did... Could have been anyone, player, coach, manager, Falvey or Levine.

For me, the timing of that article was really unfortunate. There's nothing wrong with saying that Sano's weight is and will be a concern. That's just a reality of being him. As you point out and everyone knows, he is a large man. The article was just really poorly timed.

And that's without thinking about the theoretical might-be's for when Sano leaves via free agency (which of course will likely be much more about Roc Nation than about anything Souhan or Reusse or anyone at KFAN might say.


I always had the suspicion that Souhan made it up. Or, at best, took an offhand comment from a lower level official (or got just enough of an answer that he was fishing for) and greatly exaggerated it.

I assume the front office would like to see him cut a little weight, but I can't imagine they are at the point they are going to leak it to someone like Souhan and pretend that will motivate him.
    • Vanimal46, gagu, Broker and 1 other like this
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OldFartAtPlay
Aug 27 2017 06:02 PM

If I were Mr. Sano I wouldn't pay any attention to Mr. Reusse or Mr. Souhan. Just a pair of old boo-birds who feel a need to pontificate. AndI have to add, Mr. Sano is still a young man. I've seen steady improvement from himthis year and he has, for me, become the face of the Minnesota Twins. I don't think anyone wants to let a player who could become the next David Ortiz get away. Once was enough.

    • peterb18 and gagu like this

There are true biases in this statement and that is why it is destructive. How can you define laziness?  Too many times it has been a racial epithet and most of the time it is because someone does not do what you think they should.  If Souhan wants to talk about improvements we would like to see Sano make like less Ks, fine, but from everything I read this year Sano has worked hard to be a better player and I cannot wait for him to reach his peak.

 

Unfortunately there is also a fat bias - and based on the agility of Sano at 3B this year I to not think that is justified either.  It is up to the team to communicate what is needed and if this is someone's way of motivating Sano they are way off base.

    • peterb18, kenbuddha, terrydactyls1947 and 1 other like this
I think some confuse concern with criticism. You can be concerned about Sano's in-season weight gain and k-rate without being a hater. Truth is, he's a top 10 mlb power hitter already. He may or may not be at peak potential. Those who want a Stanton, Trout, Pujols or Miggy and think that Sano has that in him shouldn't be shamed for their belief and desire to see him continue to improve to hall of fame levels.

Would Sano rather we be appreciative of his all-star caliber season or believe he has an MVP in him that we want him to try to reach?
    • KGB likes this

He certainly doesn't look fat in the photo. He fields 3rd base very well. He may strike out a lot but is hitting a good .267 with an occasional long ball. He is young so he will probably get better. Things are looking good for the Twins.

    • gagu likes this

BTW only 7 guys are hitting over .300.

 

Interesting. You should check out the dozens of replies to the Strib's tweet linking to the article. I'm hardly the only one who perceived it as such. 

 

 

Huh?

 

Sorry, the 22 hr was Cody. You were the one who cherry-picked clutch and RISP data in your last Dozier post. That's negativity bias as well. You're right to call out Souhan but I'm not a fan of that sort of thing in any case.I've given up on Souhan because he's totally awful. You, on the other hand, are usually a pleasure to read. But when it comes to Dozier... 

    • h2oface likes this
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Bill Brown69
Aug 27 2017 08:54 PM

This could well be a Minnesota thing. Hrbek after shock! 

 

The FO will have to evaluate all of his issues along with every other player of our current "core" and put forth contracts accordingly. For me the strikeouts are the glaring number but the walks give you pause to think what could happen if he REALLY recognized the strike zone. That would put him in rarified air.

I do like Levine's on-the-record quotes on Sano from the BP interview... I do wonder which Twins person gave Souhan that information off-the-record. Clearly someone did... Could have been anyone, player, coach, manager, Falvey or Levine. 
 
For me, the timing of that article was really unfortunate. There's nothing wrong with saying that Sano's weight is and will be a concern. That's just a reality of being him. As you point out and everyone knows, he is a large man. The article was just really poorly timed. 
 
And that's without thinking about the theoretical might-be's for when Sano leaves via free agency (which of course will likely be much more about Roc Nation than about anything Souhan or Reusse or anyone at KFAN might say.


http://www.1500espn....olitors-future/

I think Levine address Sano' s weight more here and it sounds like they have some concerns. I think both Strib article and the Levine article all describe how important Sano is to Twins future and his size at this age could be a sign of future problems. I don't see how stating an obvious concern is negativity.
    • h2oface, Doubles, jimmer and 1 other like this

Best article I have seen in a very long time around here.

 

Interesting. You should check out the dozens of replies to the Strib's tweet linking to the article. I'm hardly the only one who perceived it as such. 

 I always try to be a baseball fan before a Twins' fan. It is not an easy task, but bias and stress is relieved that way. I really don't care what the "most" think, especially if they are biased by being a diehard and passionate fan of a team. Many are Twins' fans first, and baseball fans second. Hence, calling for pitchers to cowardly hit a batter to "have so-and-so's back". Most, at one time, denied the discovery of the solar system, and held tight to the world was flat. I don't care if other's have bias. I am sure guilty of it, at times, even if I try not to be. Just as I don't think that a fast start to a single season makes an all-star, or an "ace", I tend to not grace a quick start with extreme admiration. I don't see any of the observations in both of the articles sighted as "negative". I see them as a valid obervations, and opinion with thoughtful, realistic, common sense approach. And everyone has an opinion, and has the right to one. 

 

Plus, you made me laugh by sighting a tweet and the commentary. If you want to deal with "negative", you have the treasure of negativity from the the tweets and comments of the incessant twits. 

    • Major League Ready and jimmer like this
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Major League Ready
Aug 28 2017 06:23 AM

 

 I always try to be a baseball fan before a Twins' fan. It is not an easy task, but bias and stress is relieved that way. I really don't care what the "most" think, especially if they are biased by being a diehard and passionate fan of a team. Many are Twins' fans first, and baseball fans second. Hence, calling for pitchers to cowardly hit a batter to "have so-and-so's back". Most, at one time, denied the discovery of the solar system, and held tight to the world was flat. I don't care if other's have bias. I am sure guilty of it, at times, even if I try not to be. Just as I don't think that a fast start to a single season makes an all-star, or an "ace", I tend to not grace a quick start with extreme admiration. I don't see any of the observations in both of the articles sighted as "negative". I see them as a valid obervations, and opinion with thoughtful, realistic, common sense approach. And everyone has an opinion, and has the right to one. 

 

Plus, you made me laugh by sighting a tweet and the commentary. If you want to deal with "negative", you have the treasure of negativity from the the tweets and comments of the incessant twits. 

 

I am ecstatic Sano is on our team and I have always been in the camp he is a great athlete and that other sports have very big when with exceptional athleticism is just much more rare in baseball.

 

The bias angle at the core of your post is dead on.It is all to common for conclusions to be a product of an already held point of view rather than looking at the facts objectively.There is a lot of that involved when it comes to Sano. The detractors to appreciate his athleticism and his accomplishments at such a young age.The athleticism is on display and the stats speak to his talent.

 

On the other hand, the vast majority of ABs he refuses to apply any sort of two strike approach and he strikes out on a lot of bad pitches.He is a greater hitter but he is still along ways from being comparable to Cabrera. He ranks 60th in WAR and 37 in OPS.Good but he has significantly more potential.Altuve's OPS is 120 points higher and Bellinger is 108 points higher.Harper, Votto and Stanton 175-200 pts higher.There are 34 players with one home run or that have more home runs.His numbers are very good but not elite.  

 

The only thing all say about the weight is that there is absolutely no way anyone could argue he could lose 20 pounds quite easily.This can make him a target with the media because modest effort and reasonable dietary discipline and he is there.  

    • Mike Sixel and h2oface like this

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