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How Byron Buxton Shed a Crippling Slump To Help Push the Twins Toward the Playoffs

cheap mlb jerseys australia time The numbers were nothing pretty; Byron Buxton Jerseys knew that much. It was the last week of June, the Twins had just finished a series against the Red Sox and Minnesota’s 23-year-old centerfielder had come up empty over and over again. In 11 at-bats in Boston, Buxton managed only one hit—an RBI single dunked into leftfield—and struck out four times, all swinging. The sorry showing dumped his season batting average below .200; the four whiffs brought him up to 80 in just 248 trips to the plate on the year. It seemed like the same sad story from last season: The former No. 1 prospect again looked overwhelmed by a game that he was supposed to be dominating.

 

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Since making his major league debut two years earlier, Buxton had known nothing but struggle and failure, and as the pressure to perform built, his urge to tinker would increase. A change in his swing, a tweak to his mechanics, the addition and subtraction and then re-addition of a leg kick … Buxton cycled through potential solutions, picking up and discarding adjustments like a college freshman shopping classes. Yet nothing seemed to work. As a high school phenom, the sport had come easy. Now, he struggled to make sense of it. “You feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, especially when it happens day after day after day,” he says. “It’s very hard to try to find something good out of that.”

 

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After a horrible first month of the season, Buxton and new Twins hitting coach James Rowson had started working on a series of changes to his stance and swing. As the weeks went by and the strikeouts piled up, it would have been easy to understand if Buxton had ditched the new mechanics and started from scratch once more. But as he talked things over with Rowson after that awful series at Fenway Park, there was no sense of panic or frustration. Those 11 at-bats may have resulted in just one measly single, but to Buxton, they were the beginning of something promising.

 

all jersey baseball and softball images “I was like, J-Ro, something feels different,” he says. “I’m starting to feel what my legs are actually supposed to do and what the pitcher’s trying to do to me. The game just got so much slower for me. I started understanding what people were telling me about my swing. That’s when I really took off.” “Took off” is an understatement. Since the beginning of July, Buxton is hitting a scalding .315/.365/.571 with 12 home runs in 225 plate appearances. His .939 OPS since the All-Star break, meanwhile, tops big-name sluggers like Kris Bryant Jerseys, Eric Hosmer Jerseys, Nelson Cruz Jerseys and Gary Sanchez Jerseys. And his huge second half is one of the top reasons why the Twins, coming off a 103-loss 2016 season and left for dead at the trade deadline, have surged into postseason contention as the second wild card.

 

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“When I get in the batter’s box, I have amazing amounts of comfort and confidence,” Buxton says. “Anything close to the plate, I feel like I can get a hit.” From the day he was drafted as the No. 2 pick in 2012 out of a small Georgia high school as a five-tool superstar, the Twins and baseball fans have been waiting for this moment: the breakout of Byron Buxton Jerseys. The kid who hit .513 and stole 38 bases in 39 games as a senior, who in 2013 was the consensus top prospect in all of baseball at the age of 19, who reached the big leagues at 21 with so much hype piled on him that it was a wonder he could stand up straight … MLB had seen only flashes of that player. The Gold Glove-caliber defense has been there; so has the game-changing speed. But both have been buried beneath countless miserable at-bats full of confused, lost swings.

 

cheap mlb jerseys australia time The transition to the majors for any player is tough enough, but most of them don’t carry the weight of a franchise on their shoulders. So it was for Buxton, tasked with bringing back to relevance a Twins team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2009, hadn’t advanced past the first round since ’02, and hadn’t won a World Series since 1991, two years before Buxton was born. Buxton was part of a youth movement that was supposed to form the core of the next Minnesota contender sooner rather than later, and the pressure for him to contribute right from day one was significant.

 

“Even though I would tell myself that the pressure doesn’t bother me, it’s still in the back of your head,” he says. “It spiraled downhill.” Translating everything that had made him so good in high school and in the minors to the majors felt impossible. Buxton’s 2016 season lasted all of 17 games and 49 plate appearances in which he hit .156 and struck out 24 times before he was sent back down to Triple A in late April. When he was recalled at the end of May, he hit .204 over the next two months before being demoted again. Even when things were going well, he knew it wouldn’t last. Last September, he climbed out of his season-long slump by hitting .287/.357/.653 and homering nine times in 29 games. But his success was built on a hot streak that he couldn’t control or fully understand.

 

“Even though it was good, I still wouldn’t have been able to tell you what I was doing,” Buxton says. “I was hitting the ball and seeing the ball, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you if I were using my legs or if my hands were in a certain spot.” As expected, the strong September finish didn’t carry over into April, but it wasn’t just that the results weren’t there. Watch any of his early-season at-bats, and you’ll see a player struggling with every aspect of hitting. “He was spinning off the ball so badly, his recognition phase was almost nil, and the bat was in and out of the zone so quickly that he didn’t have a chance to hit anything that was away from him, especially if it was breaking away,” says manager Paul Molitor. Things got so bad in those first two months that he and the Twins’ front office discussed sending Buxton down to Triple A yet again.

 

“Part of the conversation I remember having with [general manager] Thad [Levine] and [chief baseball officer] Derek [Falvey] is how much can we beat this kid up here?” Molitor says. “He was still helping us win games—it was incredible the way he was able to separate the offense and defense. But as strong as he is mentally, eventually you’re going to reach a breaking point.”

 

As the team tried to figure out what to do with Buxton, he and Rowson worked on a fix. The first thing to go was his leg kick, which he had been using on and off since 2015: Rowson ditched it, hoping to create increased stability in Buxton’s lower half to allow him to drive the ball to all fields. He also had Buxton close his stance slightly, choke up more on the bat, and change his setup so his bat was down on his shoulders instead of pointing straight up, putting his hands more in sync with his hips and legs. “It allows him to put short, more accurate swings on the baseball,” Rowson says of the changes.

 

The numbers weren’t immediately there, but Molitor could tell something was different. “You could see that he’s not chasing that slider nearly as much, that he’s taking that fastball and hitting it to the right-center gap,” he says. “Just baby steps at first.” For Buxton, the changes helped slow the game down; for the first time in his major league career, he felt in charge of his at-bats. “I’ve got a feeling of what it’s supposed to be like and how it’s supposed to feel,” he says. “I can tell you with one pitch whether I was out front or was on my backside too long or didn’t get my hips through.”

 

Buxton has never struggled with any other aspect of his game. There are few if any players who can touch him with the glove: With every new Statcast number that charts outfield defense comes a leaderboard that always seems to have his name at the top. Likewise with his legs: He owns MLB’s top Sprint Speed at 30.2 feet per second, as well as the game’s fastest time from first to third on a triple—a blazing 10.52 seconds. Those skills have helped him stay moderately productive even despite his putrid offense. What’s truly scary to think about it is how good he can be if his breakout is for real. “He’d be a dangerous guy to put a ceiling on, because if you do, he’s probably going to go through it,” Rowson says.

 

There are many factors in the Twins’ sudden success: The development of hulking slugger Miguel Sano Jerseys; the emergence of power-hitting outfielder Eddie Rosario Jerseys; the maturation of hard-throwing righty Jose Berrios. But Minnesota’s success is always going to hinge most on Buxton, because his upside is so much higher than virtually everyone else in the game. He’s the nearly finished Death Star in Return of the Jedi, and he’s tantalizingly close to being fully armed and operational.

 

There will still likely be hiccups as Buxton develops: He entered Thursday’s action hitless in his last 10 at-bats with seven strikeouts as the Yankees unceremoniously swept the Twins in the Bronx. He’s likely to get a second chance at doing better in the House that Ruth Built if Minnesota can hold off the Angels for the second wild card and return to face New York in the wild-card game. But playoffs or not, there is hope that the real Byron Buxton Jerseys has finally shown up—and now, he finally has the numbers on his side.

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Yankees Incident Revives an Old Question: How Responsible Are Teams for Foul Ball Injuries?

cheap mlb jerseys australia flag A young girl hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of New York Yankees Jerseys third baseman Todd Frazier Jerseys during Wednesday’s Yankees-Minnesota Twins Jerseys game has sparked reconsideration of a longstanding legal controversy: to what extent should teams be legally responsible for foul ball injuries? The traditional answer to this question is one that many find dissatisfying or inadequate. Perhaps the time is ripe to change that answer. Courts have long recognized the so-called “Baseball Rule,” which imposes a limited duty on the part of teams to protect fans from foul ball injuries. Although courts have not always described the duty in consistent ways, the general takeaway is that teams must provide protective screening to fans seated in a “zone of danger.” This zone includes seats behind and near home plate. The underlying logic is that fans seated in this zone face a clear risk of unavoidable danger. A ball can leave the bat of a player at over 100 miles per hour. A fan behind home plate wouldn’t have enough time to react if a foul ball comes at them. Therefore, courts have reasoned, teams must place adequate netting or screening to protect these fans.

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Fans seated outside the zone, however, are usually viewed as assuming the risk of foul ball injuries. These fans, so the logic goes, should be on notice that foul balls could approach them. They are also seated in seats that provide more reaction time than if they were seated right behind home plate. Fans seated behind first base and third base, then, are often considered to have assumed the risk of foul ball injuries. If they don’t want to accept such a risk, they could—at least theoretically and assuming they can afford it—buy seats that are behind a net or a screen.

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In addition to assumption of risk, teams also stress that fans contractually relinquish the right to sue over a foul ball injury as a condition of entering the ballpark. On the back of every big league ticket is language that expresses the ticket holder “assumes all risk and danger incidental to the game.” This includes “danger of being injured by equipment, objects or persons entering spectator areas.” Likewise, ballpark announcers usually alert fans to pay attention to their surroundings, and many ballparks have signs with the same purpose in mind. These measures make courts less likely to impose liability for foul ball injuries.
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Some courts have also advocated that Baseball Rule is an efficient and cost-sensitive approach to addressing injuries. For instance, in 2008, the Nevada Supreme Court refused to allow a fan whom a foul ball caused catastrophic facial injuries to recover against the ballpark. The court reasoned that once the stadium has met its limited duty under the Baseball Rule, “the stadium owner or operator simply has no remaining duty to protect spectators from foul balls, which are a known, obvious, and unavoidable part of all baseball games.” Further, the court noted, the limited duty, “serves the important purpose of limiting expensive and protracted litigation that ‘might signal the demise or substantial alteration of the game of baseball as a spectator sport.’” In other words, according to this logic, if fans could sue easily over foul ball injuries, they would tie up courts with lawsuits and teams would need to raise ticket prices to account for the higher risk of liability.
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This legal framework has been in place for nearly 100 years. To be sure, there have been exceptions along the way—particularly when a fan is injured in a seat with a view obstructed by construction or renovations—but the history of litigation against teams and ballparks over foul ball injuries is one that decidedly favors the defendants. Attending an MLB game in 2017 is a very different experience from attending one 20 years ago. Now-a-days, many, if not most, fans routinely check their phones and go on the Internet while the game is taking place—especially given that some ballparks offer complimentary Wi-Fi. They also take photos of one another and post them on their social media accounts. Technologically advanced scoreboards, as well as various promotional activities that occur in between innings, also entertain fans.
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It’s no surprise that Baseball has reimagined the game experience to reflect modern day conveniences and consumer preferences. Baseball is concerned that the game’s slow pace often doesn’t attract younger fans. These fans have grown up using social media and partaking in other “instant” experiences. To then sit in a slow game with long pauses—according to the Wall Street Journal, only about 18 minutes of a typical three hour MLB game consists of actual action—can test anyone’s attention span. While it makes business sense for baseball to adopt a faster, more contemporary experience for fans, the accompanying danger is that fans at ballparks are increasingly distracted by their surroundings. Fans are thus less likely to pay attention to the game and are less likely to sufficiently react—if that is even possible—to an approaching foul ball. The fact that alcohol is served at games probably only worsens these dynamics.

The solution, of course, is not to block the Internet in ballparks. A move to stop serving beer probably wouldn’t go over well, either. But from a legal vantage point, a core assumption of the Baseball Rule—that fans seated outside the zone of danger should be able to react in time to an incoming foul ball—is undermined by the current fan experience and all of its distractions.

This seems particularly true of ticketholders who are children, who are much less likely to appreciate the “risk” of a foul ball injury. Indeed, it’s difficult to logically argue that the young girl hit in Yankee Stadium on Wednesday assumed the risk of her injury. Although her age has not been revealed, we know that she is a child. She may not have even had a choice to attend the game. Even if it was her choice, it’s well known that children are not as adept at evaluating risks as are adults.

And yet, children in similar instances have lost lawsuits over foul balls. For example, in the 1995 case Lawson v. Salt Lake Trappers, a trial court and then the Supreme Court of Utah ruled against a six-year old boy who was hit by a foul ball while sitting behind first base and 143 feet from home plate. There was no protecting screening in that part of the ballpark and, as the court noted, the boy and his family did not request tickets to sit behind such screening. The team was found to have met its duty since it provided screening behind home plate and the boy wasn’t seated in the zone of danger.

Other cases, however, suggest the Baseball Rule will not always immunize the team and ballpark from liability. In 2010, a six-year-old girl with the initials M.F. was sitting with her dad behind the visitors’ dugout at an Atlanta Braves Jerseys game when a foul ball hit cheap jersey her in the head, causing a skull fracture and brain injuries. A lawsuit ensued and the Braves argued they had satisfied the Baseball Rule by providing netting behind home plate. Georgia courts declined to dismiss the case on grounds of the Baseball Rule, instead reasoning that whether the Braves are liable ought to be reviewed through the litigation process. The Braves later settled with M.F. and her family.

In a detailed column, SI’s Gabriel Baumgaertner describes recent examples of young fans at MLB ballparks injured by foul balls. In doing so, he explains that MLB recently recommended—though not mandated—that teams expand their netting to the steps of each dugout. As Gabriel stresses, only a third of teams have followed the recommendation. One additional team, the Cincinnati Reds Jerseys,?announced?on Thursday they will join this group by Opening Day in 2018. The Yankees, however, aren’t (yet) planning to do so.

The fact that MLB has recommended that ballparks enhance safety could take on legal significance. A fan injured in a seat where MLB recommends netting could logically argue that he or she was exposed to an unreasonable risk of a foul ball injury. After all, if MLB believes such netting is appropriate, why wasn’t it there? Whether the young girl sues the Yankees remains to be seen. She was hospitalized though her father says she is “doing all right.” Let’s hope she is okay. If she does sue, however, you can expect that her attorney would contend the scope of the “baseball rule” should be linked to MLB’s own recommendations.

Current litigation could also impact the viability of the Baseball Rule as applied in Yankee Stadium. While attending a Yankees game in 2011 during which rain fell, New York real estate developer Andrew Zlotnick’s view of foul balls from his seat near first base was obstructed by umbrellas. He thus never saw a line drive foul ball off the bat of Hideki Matsui. The ball hit Zlotnick in the left eye, causing him extensive and permanent injury to his vision and other injuries. Zlotnick has sued the Yankees, arguing that the Baseball Rule should not apply given that his injury occurred on a rainy day and, he contends, the Yankees umbrella policy was both inadequate and dangerous. An appellate court will review Zlotnick’s case on October 4.

Legislation could also play a factor in making the game safer, at least at Yankees Stadium. As Maury Brown of Forbes discusses, New York City Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr. recently introduced a bill that would require netting in ballparks that seat at least 5,000 people from foul pole to foul pole. Michael McCann is SI’s legal analyst. He is also an attorney and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.