Buxton’s Best Lined Up for Now?
Image courtesy of © Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY SportsRecently Seth Stohs of Twins Daily reported that the Minnesota Twins new skipper went down to Georgia and met with the heralded centerfielder. Tuesday was Byron’s 25th birthday, and after being in Minnesota recently for a charity event, Buxton was in his own element this time. The meeting included a round of batting practice, and Darren Wolfson reported that the time spent went “very well.” Rocco has been described as a people person, which was evident in his introductory press conference, and connecting with such a similarly destined individual is arguably his greatest task in Twins Territory.
By the time he was 25, Baldelli has played in 384 big league games, almost 100 more than Buxton has seen to this point. He owned a .780 OPS and an impressive .289 batting average. Without sugarcoating it, Rocco was vastly superior to Byron numerical at this stage in their careers. Like the mentee, Rocco had also dealt with adversity. The Tampa Bay *Devil* Rays outfielder didn’t play during the 2005 season due to both an ACL tear and Tommy John surgery. He then got in less than 40 games in 2007 and 2008 due to an undiagnosed medical condition. It was the mitochondrial channelopathy that would also abruptly end his career as a 28-year-old in 2010.
After what was viewed as such an encouraging spark to close out the 2017 season, Buxton’s MVP votes seemed to be a distant memory last year. Playing in just 28 big league games, the Baxley, Georgia native suffered from foot ailments, migraines, and a multitude of other unforeseen circumstances. When push came to shove the Twins front office decided to play the service time game and invoke the business side of baseball, as opposed to letting their star build some momentum into the offseason.
When discussing how the year ended with KSTP last week, there was no uncertainty when it came to how Buxton felt about the decision. Minnesota’s front office was cutthroat, and the player was within his rights to feel like it sucked. The reality is that the past can become irrelevant, depending on how the future unfolds. Should 2019 be a season of resurgence, the two sides will likely be able to celebrate the success together and let bygones be bygones. Although Baldelli can’t make a direct impact on the field, this is where his work begins.
Byron Buxton was once considered the best prospect in all of baseball. He’s flashed an ability that has garnered him multiple defensive awards as well as votes feeling that he was the best player in the sport. He’s also fallen from grace causing frustration within the organization, fans, and most likely himself. There’s been adversity along the way, and a significant triumph is the chapter of this story that’s yet to be written. If Minnesota’s new man in charge can connect with a player that is still just a young man, the limit in the sky would still be plenty within reach.
Regardless of what talent is acquired, signed, or promoted from within, the long-awaited reality is that the Twins eventual reign over the AL Central has rested upon the shoulders of Buxton and Miguel Sano. The previous manager failed to unleash that ability in tandem and with continual success. As this team looks towards the (bright) future, it will be in the connection Baldelli makes with his team, and the output that is forthcoming from that connection, that ultimately paves the path for what is next at 1 Twins Way.
You’ve likely grown sick of hearing that “This could be the year,” or that “Byron is ready to turn a corner,” but if there’s a profile of an individual capable of relating to the talented 2012 first round pick, it’s the man that Buxton now regards as boss. There’s isn’t a character in this story that isn’t hoping for a happy ending, but the author taking over the narrative may just be the spark to turn the page.
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