Donaldson is injured. Again. Buxton is….well…what’s happening there?
Because of my respect for Byron Buxton as a major league baseball player, I am hopeful that the Twins choose not to bring him back until much closer to the trade deadline. What would be the point of bringing him back now? Win some games to inch closer to mediocrity? Win some games to diminish our draft standing? Win some games to make us feel better about this season? No, No, and it’s too late. A great centerfielder would help, but unless he can pitch, this team is well beyond the type of redemption that even a solid position player can give them.
I’m not one for conspiracy theories, usually, but Buxton has been out for a month now. He has hit generally well in St. Paul, including a sprinting triple, and still… “he’s not ready.” Maybe, he actually is physically ready, but his displeasure with this year’s product and his past treatment by the team resulting in his free agency after 2022, rather than what could have been 2021, combined with the team’s need to trade the immensely talented but usually hurt star for a more dependable piece of the puzzle, is what is really keeping him off the field.
Obviously, Falvey and Levine know vastly more about how Buxton is doing, than I do. They know, or they certainly should know by now, if he wants to stay in Minnesota, or if he does not. They know if he harbors a grudge based on what he might very well perceive to be manipulated service time. In sum, they know. I don’t know, but if I were guessing….either Buxton isn’t happy about not playing or management isn’t happy that Buxton isn’t happy about…well…a few things. If Buxton isn’t happy and/or if Falvey and Levine know that his salary demands after 2022 will keep the Twins out of the picture long term, then, given Buxton’s history, there’s no need to rush him back into the line-up.
This is a lost season. We all know that. As Twins fans, we have seen it many times in the past, and we know it when we see it. Of course, winning games is more enjoyable than losing them, but long-term thinking requires us to acknowledge this year’s reality and do our best planning for tomorrow’s promise.
We have now given in to the realization that we are reading Twinkie Town and following the team because we can’t stop ourselves, and because we need humor, and company, during this time of baseball misery. Obviously, baseball diehards and true fans seek knowledge about the team, about call-ups, trade rumors, injuries, etc….but by now, even the truest of fans surely realizes that this isn’t our year.
I realize it can be controversial to suggest that a team, any team, not put the very best product on the field to win every night, but in this case, what’s the point of that? The future requires the Twins to treat 2021 as merely a prelude to 2022 and what trades and acquisitions need to be made to make the Twins competitive again.
Losing two out of three in basically every series the Twins have been playing lately, isn’t going to keep the interest of casual fans. The truth is….casual fans are already out or nearly out for this season, and serious fans will remain in no matter what, so the franchise will be aided more by laying the groundwork for the future, than by trying to redeem an irredeemable season just to placate the fan base. True fans will be there next year. Fair weather fans will too, given fair weather.
How can the Twins keep our interest in the middle of this dreadful season? Coverage of the Vikings usually supersedes Twins coverage even if the Twins are good. These Twins are not good. Maybe we can get more interested in baseball generally. Maybe the cheating scandal will get our attention more than it already has. But so far it seems that only serious baseball fans even care about cheating scandal. It is, of course, interesting following Commissioner Rob Manfred handle it with his usual display of incompetence, and inappropriate public comments. All of us could learn from watching the cautionary tale that Manfred has become and consider our own workplaces as we see him use every ounce of his acquired knowledge from the trainwreck school of leadership and management. But, even that’s only fun for a while.
Think globally, act locally. It’s fine to think about MLB more generally, but our focus is our Minnesota Twins, and that focus requires fan acceptance that, from this day forward, it’s the long game that matters, and I’m not referring to every night’s three plus hours of long game….the real long game, the future.
That planning requires that Byron Buxton not injure himself again. That can only happen, obviously, if he doesn’t play. Slow down the rehab, no need to hurry at this point, make sure he’s as healthy as he can be, and then showcase him at the trade deadline. As I, and many others have said before, there is no requirement that he be traded, but there is certainly no requirement that he not be. Field offers, consider requests, and do everything possible to best prepare for 2022.
At this point, that means conspiracy or no, happy camper or not, Buxton’s greatest value to this team is not on the field until he’s either preparing for 2022 or until he has been traded for assets that will help the team down the road. He has to be healthy to be traded, but why would we press our luck? Why? His return date should be somewhere around July 25th…certainly not before.
Then, if he’s traded, so be it, we will hope for a return that helps the team moving forward. If he’s not (and I really hope the front office has addressed with him a contract extension if a trade isn’t made), then that’s fine, Buxton is the long-term answer. Either way, he should enjoy a few more weeks of rehabilitation, and now it appears, just as Arraez returns, Donaldson might return to the injury list as well.
I have no idea how Donaldson and Buxton feel about each other personally, but this is their chance to get to know each other. They can rehabilitate their injuries together and contemplate their futures, and as they do that, management can prepare them for late July and how to maximize their value to the team.
A few short months ago, we didn’t see this season turning out this way it has, but that simple surprise, should at least give us hope that a year from now, perhaps we might see a major turnaround in the other direction. To do so, might require movement in a different direction, and that might mean trading some valuable and even beloved (at least sometimes) assets. Stay healthy, we want what’s best for you….truly, but sometimes that means holding you out of the line-up because putting you in the line-up has resulted in too much pain….for you physically, and for us, emotionally. Whatever happens, it is clearly in the Twins’ best interests to have a healthy Buxton and a healthy Donaldson on July 31st. I’m not a doctor, but it seems to me that if sitting them out and slowing down their respective rehabs will more likely ensure that outcome, then that’s what has to be done. I won’t hate Falvey and Levine for doing it, and even if Buxton and Donaldson might….well…big picture, long game….