In the newspaper industry, an ‘‘evergreen’’ story is one that is not necessarily timely yet thought to be of persistent interest to readers.
For the past 25 years, anyone writing about the Twins has grown a forest of evergreen stories about the necessity for patience when dealing with young players. This is the latest, and, yes, stories about patience require ... patience.
Byron Buxton left a Class AAA game on Thursday because of a sore wrist, further delaying his return to hitting competence and the major leagues. Miguel Sano is performing well at his Class A boot camp, but will need to prove he can play every day and hit a higher level of pitching before he returns.
The Twins are in danger of prompting their front office to strip this roster for parts and give up on yet another season. There is a sense of urgency around the team, the kind of urgency that could persuade a more jittery front office to rush Buxton and Sano back to Target Field.
Patience is required. That might be the most boring, numbing, disgusting sentence that a Twins fan can read in July. It is nevertheless true. Twins history proves it.
Minor-league struggles and big-league demotions often have acted as prelude to the best Twins careers in recent history.
The Twins drafted Torii Hunter in the first round of the 1993 draft. After a long series of minor-league failures and demotions, he became a big-league regular in 2001 en route to building a long, impressive career.
The Twins drafted Justin Morneau in the third round in 1999. In 2003, he was taking batting practice in the Metrodome in his first big-league season. He was struggling, and a former big-league hitter of considerable intelligence turned to me and said, ‘‘I don’t think he’s going to make it.’’ Morneau became the 2006 American League MVP.
In 2000, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan selected a minor-league pitcher who had posted ERAs of 7.36, 4.72 and 4.66 without making it above Class A in the Rule 5 draft. That pitcher posted a 6.49 ERA in his first big-league season and a 4.74 ERA in his second.
Then he developed a changeup, and became Johan Santana.
In a rare act of impatience, the Twins released David Ortiz following the 2002 season. Ortiz had produced as a hitter but seemed injury prone and out of shape. Had the Twins kept Ortiz, they would have had the centerpiece hitter who might have helped them win playoff series in 2000s — maybe even a World Series.
Today you know LaTroy Hawkins as the pitcher who played for 11 teams over 21 years and retired as the only active member of the 1,000-games-pitched club.
What you may not remember is that Hawkins was a seventh-round draft pick by the Twins who was, statistically, one of the worst pitchers in baseball history over his first five seasons. His first five big-league ERAs: 8.67, 8.20, 5.84, 5.25 and the ominous 6.66. He became a dominant setup man for the Twins and an ambassador of the game wherever he went.
The Twins chose Eddie Guardado in the 21st round of the 1990 draft. He was a failure as a big-league starter, found a niche as a lefthanded specialist and became a setup man.
In 2002, 12 years after he was drafted, Ron Gardenhire made Guardado a closer, and he became an All-Star.
Buxton is 24. He has won a Gold Glove. He has hit nine home runs in a month (September of 2016). He hit .300 over the second half of last season. No one should be giving up on him at this stage of his career.
Sano is 25. He has earned an All-Star bid and competed in the All-Star Game home run derby. He possesses tremendous power, a tremendous arm, and at his best a keen hitting intellect. No one should be giving up on him at this stage of his career.
Patience. It’s a frustrating, boring, sometimes maddening approach to player development and Twins fandom. It’s also essential.