Hartman: Browns' future still looks bleak

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 19, 2013 - 12:12 AM

The Vikings’ opponent Sunday has had a long playoff drought and lacks playmakers in a struggling offense.

Vikings fans who complain about the team not winning Super Bowls or division titles should realize that the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings’ opponent Sunday, have not made the playoffs for 11 years and haven’t won a playoff game for 19 years. And this year isn’t looking any better.

The team sent their 2012 first-round draft pick, running back Trent Richardson, to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2013 first-round pick. They also announced Wednesday that their third-string quarterback, Brian Hoyer, will start against the Vikings because starter Brandon Weeden sprained the thumb on his throwing hand.

It’s a catastrophe this year in Cleveland. The Browns have scored only one touchdown in two games, and the reason is simply a “lack of playmakers” on offense, reported Terry Pluto in the Cleveland Plain Dealer this week.

Pluto wrote: “Pretend you are an opposing defensive coordinator facing the Browns. Who would worry you the most? That’s the best way to access what’s wrong with the Browns offense.”

Meanwhile, the Vikings offense is showing improvement in a key area. In 2012 the Vikings had four pass plays of 35-plus yards, but in two games this year, the Vikings already have three pass plays of more than 35 yards, all caught by Jerome Simpson.

Coach Leslie Frazier also confirmed a report that reserve defensive tackle Christian Ballard, who played a lot for the team last season, has retired because he no longer enjoyed playing. It also appears there is no interest in bringing cornerback Antoine Winfield back despite the team’s 0-2 start.

Sano, Buxton stand out

Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton were born seven months apart in 1993. This year Sano, recently ranked the No. 3 prospect in the minors by Baseball America, and Buxton, ranked No. 1, both spent time in the Florida State League with the Class A Fort Myers Miracle.

Sano played 56 games there before being called up to Class AA New Britain on June 9. Buxton ended the year there, playing 57 games after being called up from low-Class A Cedar Rapids on June 24.

Sano hit .330 [68-for-206] with 16 home runs, 15 doubles, 51 runs scored and 48 RBI at Fort Myers, posting a .424 on-base percentage, .655 slugging percentage and 1.079 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).

Buxton hit .326 [71-for-218] with four home runs, eight triples, four doubles, 23 stolen bases, 41 runs scored and 22 RBI with the Miracle, posting a .415 on-base percentage, .472 slugging percentage and .887 OPS.

Sano and Buxton would have finished second and third in the league in batting average if they had enough at-bats to qualify. Sano’s home run totals still left him tied for eighth in the league, even though some of the league leaders had more than double his at-bats. Buxton’s eight triples were tied for third in the league, and his 23 stolen bases were tied for eighth.

Sano wrapped up his third minor league season with New Britain and hit .236 with a .344 on-base percentage and .915 OPS in 67 games. He had 19 home runs, 35 runs scored and 55 RBI to go along with 15 doubles and three triples.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan recently talked about how he believes Sano and Buxton will get invitations to spring training next season. The Twins don’t have a long history of promoting players to the big leagues at that age — the last 21-year-old to play a full major league season for the Twins was shortstop Cristian Guzman in 1999.

But there are two former Twins who are Hall of Famers that started their careers in the majors that early. Paul Molitor played 125 games with the Milwaukee Brewers as a 21-year-old in 1978, hitting .273 with 73 runs scored, 30 stolen bases and 45 RBI. He finished second in the AL rookie of the year voting to the Tigers’ Lou Whitaker. Dave Winfield also got some playing time as a 21-year-old, hitting .277 over 56 games in 1973 with the San Diego Padres.

As for current Twins, Joe Mauer played 35 games in the majors as a 21-year-old in 2004. He hit .308 with six home runs, 17 RBI and 18 runs scored.

Jottings

• Former Gophers baseball pitchers Tom Windle [Dodgers], Drew Ghelfi [Brewers] and DJ Snelten [Giants] have been invited to the Arizona Fall League later this month. All were drafted in the 2013 amateur draft.

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