What's Wrong with the Twins? A Fizzling Core
Image courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas, USA TodayThe vision for a contending team this year was framed around Buxton and Sano as foundational forces. In fact, that gaze has been set ever since 2012, when the Twins were lucky enough to draft Buxton and add him to their system alongside Sano.
From that moment, the duo was at the center of Minnesota's rebuilding blueprint.
True, there are no sure things in baseball, but it's easy enough to spot generational talents when you see them.
The year Buxton came aboard, Sano hit 28 home runs in A-ball as a teenager. Not longer after, Buck was the unanimous top prospect in baseball. These were standout studs that any organization in the same situation would build around. Their presence was vitalizing.
As Twins fans endured a half-decade of dismal baseball, the ascending superstars served as shining beacons of hope and reassurance. We watched them dominate each level of the minors. We also watched them endure their occasional setbacks, most of them common enough.
But up until this year, there's never been reason to doubt the duo's ability to sustainably power contending clubs, in the same way Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau did during the last winning cycle.
Everything was in place. Coming into this season, Sano and Buxton were both 24 years old, established as successful major-league players. One was coming off an All Star appearance, the other an MVP-caliber second half.
To be receiving very close to ZERO from a pair of players who were at the very heart of the design makes winning almost impossible. These are bad breaks that can't be absorbed. You've got to feel for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, who have seen so much of their well constructed plan fall into place around this defective nucleus.
Vastly improved rotation and bullpen. Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar playing out of their minds. A truly terrible division. Insert the versions of Buxton and Sano that we all expected – or even close, or even one or the other – into that equation, and the team is winning this division right now. Maybe handily.
But when you go from top-gear Buxton to a mere shell, and then a minor-league journeyman in Ryan LaMarre? When you go from a herculean Sano in 2017 to the total mess we've winced at through nine weeks of 2018?
We have seen where that leaves us. Six games below .500 on June 7th. Five games out of first place. A team frittering away every burst of momentum that its contributing parts can muster because the core is fizzling.
And what's most demoralizing about this state of affairs? How utterly inexplicable and remediless it feels.
Prospects bust all the time – even some that look like sure bets. You can't call Sano or Buxton busts. You just can't. They're still too young, for one, but more importantly they've both shown the ability to convincingly dominate in the majors.
These two transcendent talents continue to be haunted by issues that defy explanation. Sure, there's a healthy dose of bad luck at play for both – enduring from their injury-hampered days in the minors – but it goes beyond that.
To watch baseball players of this caliber wallow in perpetual regression... it leaves me speechless. I've got nothing. Equally devoid of answers, it would seem, is the considerable braintrust working diligently to get them on track.
Diagnosing what's wrong with the Twins is easy: it's Buxton and Sano. That's just about the long and short of it. If only diagnosing and correcting whatever afflicts them were so simple.
- birdwatcher, by jiminy, Oldgoat_MN and 8 others like this