I don't usually write about single events. To me, one thing happening just isn't enough to write a column worth reading. On most topics, there just isn't enough substance to get a full column out of it. But I had to write something about Byron Buxton today.
He's the most important player to come through the Twins system in a long time. Not just because of his immense talent, but because of what he symbolizes: A new era, hope, playoff contention. Since he was drafted he's been the Twins version of Jack Reacher. Few people in the area have seen him in person, he's discussed in reverential tones, and all anybody knows about him is that he's great. Now he's here, and we'll see if he's for real.
I don't know if it's just the Timberwolves fan side of me scarred from the Jonny Flynn/Wesley Matthews/ Derrick Williams debacles that makes me think this or if it's all Twins fans, but I'm terrified he'll be a disappointment. He's supposed to be the savior. He has to be the savior. We've spent too much time hearing about him, how he'll lead us to the World Series for him to be a bust.
All this was racing through my mind just before the game started. I pledged to do two things: Number one was to remember that he's a rookie, he'll have bad at bats, swing at bad pitches, make mental errors. Willie Mays started his career 1-26, these things happen. Two was similar to one. It was to temper my expectations. Don't think of him as the next Andrew McCutchen, be patient and have fun watching him develop. This is supposed to be fun, right?
As the Twins came to bat to start the game they showed the starting lineup. I was relieved to see Buxton hitting ninth. In retrospect, that was Gardy's biggest mistake with Hicks. He put too much pressure on him too early in the season and his career by hitting him leadoff right away. Anyway the Twins scored two in the first, batting six so we know Buxton will hit in the second. Hughes retired the side in the second, the anticipation was building. I'd be lying if I said I knew what Robinson and Escobar did in their respective at-bats. This was all about Buxton, with cell phone cameras making that weird clicking sound, he walked up to the plate.
He struck out on four pitches.
That was awkward. He looked like a classic rookie, the final pitch being a breaking ball he swung at in the dirt, right out of the Arcia playbook. His next at-bat was much better, with an 0-2 count he lashed one to third base, forcing Joey Gallo to make a nice pick on it. He still nearly beat it out. Later he struck out on the same pitch he had before, before failing to get a bunt down in his final appearance.
The failed bunt did give us the chance to see him run the bases, which was by far the most exciting Buxton related moment of the game. While lots of guys on the team could have scored on Rosario's double off the wall, Buxton flew around the bases. There's no other way to describe it.
Despite going 0-4, I'm hesitantly optimistic about Buxton this season. He looked great on his groundout and seemed to get more comfortable as the game went on. He's very mature and isn't the type to let the attention get to his head. We'll have to see how this plays out. Whatever happens, it'll be interesting.