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So...This IS How We Baseball?

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 02 September 2018 · 1,294 views

minnesota twins thad levine derek falvey byron buxton
After recently writing a piece at Twins Daily about the Twins doing the unthinkable and playing the service time game with Byron Buxton, Thad Levine came out and said that's exactly what's going to take place. Minnesota's horrible "This is how we baseball" has been mocked all season long, thanks to lackluster performance and confusing decisions, but I really didn't expect something to take the cake in September.

I have been quite vocal about my support of the Twins new front office. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had a stellar offseasons. They've acquired some very shrewd talent in trades, and they've helped to infuse an organization with new trains of thought. Where I've disagreed, also vocally, has been on the handling of in season roster decisions. Everything from Ryan LaMarre playing in 40 meaningful games, to Matt Belisle being valued for leadership and throwing out ability, to Paul Molitor still looking like a fish out of water when it comes to any form of strategy. All of those situations are trumped by this Buxton decision however.

Thad Levine attempted to prepare us for this self-sabotage by suggesting that Byron was still "playing through" thinks, and Molitor was non-committal when it came to his September plan. When Darren Wolfson dropped the bomb officially though, no amount of preparation helped to ease the lunacy.

Although Levine tried to gray out his obvious admission of guilt when it came to service time manipulation, his quote to Mike Berardino was all that needed to be said, "I think part of our jobs is we’re supposed to be responsible to factoring service time into every decision we make. ... We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t at least aware of service-time impacts on decisions we make."

So, now that there's finality to this ridiculous move front the front office, here's shooting down every sensible retort coming out of Twins Territory:

Manipulating service time makes sense, the Cubs did it with Kris Bryant and the Blue Jays are currently doing so with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

In and of itself, nothing about the above situation is wrong. Garnering extra service time from your elite prospects is something every franchise should look to stretch out. However, comparing Buxton to those situations is one that suggests a lack of understanding surrounding contracts and how baseball development takes places. Uber-prospects having service time manipulated takes place BEFORE they debut at the big league level. Whether trying to stretch out another year of arbitration or avoid Super 2 status, it's in or before major league debuts that this stuff takes place. Byron Buxton was an uber-prospect, but he's currently 300-plus games into his big league career. You aren't manipulating in hopes of what could be coming at this point.

Buxton is actually hurt, and Minnesota wants him to start 2019 healthy.

That's a really convenient avenue for a franchise to take after Buxton missed a large portion of the 2018 season because the Twins didn't care. After breaking his foot, the Twins needed their Platinum Glove winner back so badly that they allowed him to play in 17 games despite an inability to swing without pain. On top of that, Buxton still being hurt hasn't shown up in the box score at Rochester. He owned a .996 OPS since his activation following the wrist injury, and was being asked to play on nearly a nightly basis. Unless there's some injury that occurs when crossing state lines, merit is nowhere to be found on this one.

Has Buxton actually earned anything? He owns the 3rd lowest OPS among MLB hitters with 90 PAs in 2018, and had just a .787 OPS in 35 games for Rochester.

Defining whether or not a player has earned or is owed something is likely a reflection of personal preference. From this vantage point though, healthy players play, and the best ones get the most run. Buxton is an elite outfielder, and is no doubt one of the most important pieces to the Minnesota lineup. He was awful to start the year, and then was hurt for a significant portion of the rest. With a month left to go, allowing a guy to catch up with as many imperative at bats as possible seems like common sense. Sometimes though, those things aren't so common.

Getting another year of team control for Byron in 2022 is more important than a month's worth of ABs during a lost season.

Here's another one that has real merit when viewing the sentiment in a vacuum. Yes, when Buxton is a superstar in all facets of the game in 2022, it'd be great for Minnesota to have contractual flexibility with their player. Unfortunately, the thought that a guy with 300-plus games under his belt needs a reset, has to get going at Triple-A, and isn't worthy of MLB at bats in September doesn't jive with said player being a superstar. In short, if you're worried about how good Buxton is in 2022, then you should absolutely be all in on him being provided every avenue for development in the here and now. Contradiction doesn't get to be separated for the purpose of sensibility.

On top of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine making such an error in judgement, they've continued to double-down with the poor public disseminations. Levine suggested that Byron is still very much a part of the Twins future, and the front office hopes to "make amends" with him soon. It's very true that money talks and a hefty arbitration raise could do wonders for smoothing things over. It's also entirely plausible that Buxton laughs at the thought that the organization is again suddenly looking out for his best interested after entirely screwing him over.

Then there's the manager, Paul Molitor. When addressing the media prior to their game on September 2nd, Molitor suggested it isn't a given that Buxton is the 2019 centerfielder for the Twins. He went on to note lots of competition and a bit more political jargon. Maybe Molitor forgot that this is the reigning Platinum Glove winner, and the best defensive centerfielder in baseball. Jake Cave has been a great addition to Minnesota's stable, but he's not supplanting Byron's future. This also reverts back to the contradictory suggestion that 2022 is an important year of team control, despite a lack of belief in 2019 and beyond.

With Rochester having two games left on their schedule, the resident major leaguer packed up his bags and began his offseason. Byron has become the face of public ridicule for a decision derived from a poor front office decision. He's not bailing on anyone, it isn't a "me first" mentality, and questioning his team attitude is shortsighted. His bosses left him out to dry, and then went on allowing him to twist in the wind as the fruits of their failure come to light.

I'd imagine that Buxton's agents have made calls to the front office already. MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark should be helping Byron to draft a grievance as we speak. This isn't a decision that can come down without recourse, and siding with billionaire owners never should sit right with millionaire players.
At the end of the day, the hope should still be that Byron Buxton turns into the superstar his prospect status alluded to. While that chapter is yet to be written, there's going to need to be a significant amount of relationship capital built back up for the player to trust an organization that no longer looked out for his best interests.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • mikelink45 and Strato Guy like this



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3balls2strikes
Sep 03 2018 12:02 AM

Meh. Much ado about nothing. Buxton is a contracted employee. The employer is acting under the terms of the contract signed by the employee. It's a business. Said employee may have some leverage in the situation if he provided solid production for the employer, but unfortunately the employee's production has been far below his co-workers.  

    • slash129 likes this
Ted, while I appreciate your passion on this, I don't think the sky is actually falling here. Part of being an excellent MLB player is staying on the field. Frankly Buxton has not been able to do that, even in MiLB. These 13 games would have long ago disappeared without all his injuries. No, they are not all his fault such as the toe and migraine, but running into walls and sliding hands first are. He has to learn to take care of his body, or as a speed valued player his value will diminish well before those control years are up. I do think he has special talents, and I do agree the whole season could have went differently in all areas. But I do think this is the best avenue left for the Twins to pursue. One thing would have been nice though. Molitor could have simply not touched on the subject. Suggesting that Buxton is not the likely center fielder next year gives one of two impressions. Molitor wanted to get a specific hurtful dig in on Buxton, or Molitor has finally confirmed he doesn't know know a quality baseball player when he has one on his roster. Frankly, and sadly, in Molitors case either or both is possible.

This along with how they treated Dozier and Escobar is going to hurt.No decent players will want to sign with this team.Seems it is already like this but not it may be worse.They have such a hard time working with some and let others (Kepler) slack.Nothing they do makes much sense any longer.

    • Kelly Vance likes this

Some of the responsibility has to go on the player and his performance, along with making sure he can stay health.His quality of at bats at the major league level was painful to watch.Yep, the talents there; and he has done better at the minor league level.But we've seen that step to the majors trip up other highly rated prospects.No matter how good he is in the field, how he can be an impact player overall without being competent at the plate? 

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Ted Schwerzler
Sep 03 2018 08:07 AM

Some of the responsibility has to go on the player and his performance, along with making sure he can stay health.His quality of at bats at the major league level was painful to watch.Yep, the talents there; and he has done better at the minor league level.But we've seen that step to the majors trip up other highly rated prospects.No matter how good he is in the field, how he can be an impact player overall without being competent at the plate?

So the logical response would be to get him as many MLB ABs as possible...
    • mplsman likes this

If your logic was not good, Falvey and Levine would not be trying to think of ways to make amends to Buxton.Obviously they know that they have blown their relationship.Next time they want Buxton to play while hurt I imagine his agent might have a response!  

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LA VIkes Fan
Sep 03 2018 08:30 AM
This all has a “wake up call” feel to it. Poor year, including what looked like an unwillingness to change his hitting approach, followed by no call up and dark suggestions from the manager that he might not start next year. Sounds like management is trying to send a message - we don’t care about your draft posistion or talent, no MLB for you until you produce over an extended period. I’m not sure it’s justified but that’s what this looks like. Might be for more than just Buxton.
    • 3balls2strikes likes this
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Kelly Vance
Sep 03 2018 08:33 AM

Ted, I agree 100 percent. Those critics that say Buck can't stay healthy are unfair and to the point of absurdity. Buck had migraines. They are debilitating at times. Heck Kareem Jabbar couldn't play in a 7th game of the NBA Finals because of them. Then Buck fouled a ball off his foot and broke it. What are the critics going to say about that? He should not have hit the foul? This is ridiculous.

 

Buck goes all out on every play. He dives, crashes into walls and MAKES THE DAMN PLAY. He is a star, not a prospect. Last year he hit .300 for a long period after making an adjustment in his leg kick. This year the FO played him when he had a broken foot. Buck tried and I remind everyone, he still ran as hard as he could on a broken foot. He tried to compensate by swinging from his heels and trying to pull everything. But his BA plummeted. He should have never been on the field.

 

Now a lot of people have found nothing good to say about a platinum glove center fielder who played hurt and tries his best on every play. Pitiful.  What these ungrateful critics say says more about them than it does Buck. Buck is not a slave on their plantation. 

 

The FO blew it. I have posted what I think they should have done. Bring him up, blow off the year of control and offer him an extension to make that year of control a moot point. Instead, they treated him like just another prospect. They think that is going to motivate him? Well, maybe, but in a way we won't like. Buck is gone when he is able to leave. I hope Buck gets traded to a team that will appreciate his rare skills. The Twins will keep being a second rate team as long as they do things like this. And it is no surprise that the only times the Twins have won the series, they had brother man players. Gaetti, Kirby, T Rex, Gags, all made the team better than the sum of its parts. 

 

And all those arm chair general managers who are wise in their own eyes because they understand options, team control, stuff like that,  don't know players at all. Its not about moving pawns around a chessboard. Players like to be respected. They like to be appreciated. Many of them will play for less if they feel wanted and treated like family. And intangibles like chemistry, loyalty, brotherhood, and espirit de corps help make a championship team. Those guys who have all that will look at the Twins and say "No thanks" when offered a contract. Because loyalty works both ways. That means the Twins will have to settle for stop gap mercenaries like LoMo and Lynn. Nice going front office. You just became Calvin Griffith.

 

 

The CBA is what it is. It's fair to dislike parts of it, and I think the players have the short end of the stick. It's in place though, so I have no problem with the FO acting within the rules. It goes both ways. If I typically vote against politicians who support entitlement programs, and they get elected anyway and push the programs. Well, I would be stupid not to sign up and collect on everything that I legally qualified to collect.
    • Kevin and 3balls2strikes like this
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Brandon Warne
Sep 03 2018 10:11 AM

 

This along with how they treated Dozier and Escobar

 

Trading them to contenders?

    • Kevin, DocBauer, slash129 and 3 others like this
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pierre75275
Sep 03 2018 02:58 PM
First of all Glen Perkins says hi.
Second the Twins have options when it comes to pay. They can pay him over the league minimum to offset not calling him up if they want to.
They really don't have to negotiate wages with him for what, 4 yrs? Time heals a lot of things. This seems like a lot of hand wringing and angst about nothing.
Does it suck currently for Buxton? Yeah maybe but I would prefer him, as a fan, that he get recharged and reset and start fresh next year. I understand he could get hurt anytime, but I don't see what the point would be to call him up in a lost season when he may not be 100 percent and run the risk of a more serious injury.
As a selfish fan, I'm not unhappy about the xtra yr of control.
My guess, the xtra yr of control is eventual used as leverage in a contractual negotiation and everybody walks away happy.
I am a huge Buxton fan and believer in his ability.but frankly if he doesn't stop running into fences and sliding hands first he is going to keep getting hurt. He is an elite CF'er as is obvious. But his major flaw is he seems never to have learned how to "find" the fence and jump. Hitting it at 23 mph just isn't that smart, nor healthy. As to bringing him up and then offering an extension, I think he made it clear earlier in the year he wasn't interested in extensions, or getting years bought out.? On one other point, I do wish EE was still here, but I fail to see exactly what we "did" to him and Dozier that was so horrific. It was the trade deadline, we weren't good, those are the kinds of players you move. Not an Andrainza. Besides, BD couldn't get out of here fast enough, I wouldn't be surprised if he got a speeding ticket on the way to the airport?
    • David HK likes this
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Ex-Iowegian
Sep 04 2018 11:33 AM

 

So the logical response would be to get him as many MLB ABs as possible...

How many ABs does it take before one realizes "he is what he is"?

600? 900? 1000?

1075?

Why is it he gets a pass at the expense of some others who play in the system? They might need MLB at bats to see if they would stick, too.

He has talent. True. But as for now, it looks "un-realized."