Patrick Reusse
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Byron Buxton will turn 25 on Dec. 18. Miguel Sano will turn 26 on May 11. At this moment, after 306 big-league games for Buxton and 381 for Sano, they are in position to be ranked as the leading tandem of busts to populate simultaneously a local sports franchise since the Twin Cities officially became a major league market in 1961.

Buxton and Sano could lose that label, either by showing a high level of competence in 2019, or by being pushed aside if the $330 million combination of Karl-Anthony Towns (23 on Nov. 15) and Andrew Wiggins (24 on Feb. 23) doesn’t shape up considerably before the start of the next decade.

The category here is athletes who were universally anticipated to reach the plus side of stardom. Christian Laettner and Isaiah Rider? Nope. Getting Laettner (rather than Shaq or Alonzo Mourning) was a disappointment from the start, and Rider arrived with a head case label.

In 2018, at the age when the best of hitters enter their prime, Buxton batted .156 in brief Twins duty, with most of his at-bats at Class AAA Rochester. Sano batted .199 with the Twins, and also spent a large hunk of the summer in the minor leagues.

They had injuries. Before those, Buxton had returned to guess-hitting and flailing in spring training and early in the season. Sano couldn’t make contact when he was bloated in the 290s; and he couldn’t make contact when he returned looking reasonably fit.

“We have to get Miguel and Byron right,’’ said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ CEO for baseball. “We have a good plan that Miguel is involved with this offseason. Byron is getting fully healthy this winter, and we’re confident that he will be in a good place for spring training.

“We are not going to spend sizable assets looking for starting players at third base and center field. We will go to spring training expecting Miguel and Byron to make it clear that those positions belong to them.’’

And if that fails and they still can’t hit in 2019? “We could have a tough season,’’ Falvey said. “But we don’t anticipate that will be the case.’’

PLUS THREE

Reasons beyond win-loss record for terrible Gophers football crowds:

• AD Norwood Teague trying to use a Citrus Bowl appearance to assess excessive “scholarship seating’’ fee remains a disaster for maintaining the ticket base.

• Being outdoors and on campus might look great when playing TCU in late summer, but the public and students now say “forget it’’ in wet and/or cold later in the schedule.

• Fans of the Vikings now are charged twice as much for similar seats in The Zygi as in the Metrodome. There go the crossover dollars for Gophers tickets.

Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.