For his first 24 games of 2021, Byron Buxton was the best baseball player on the planet. He hit for average. He hit home runs. He hit doubles. He stole some bases. He played center field like Hermes, only in cleats instead of winged sandals. He hit .370/.408/.772 with nine home runs, 10 doubles and five stolen bases. He led all hitters in slugging percentage and trailed only Mike Trout in OPS.
This was the ceiling we had longed dreamed of for Buxton, who at his best is the most dynamic player in baseball this side of Shohei Ohtani: a combination of power, speed and defense that would make him a modern-day Willie Mays or Ken Griffey Jr.
Of course, it's unfair to compare anybody to those two, and it was unfair to expect Buxton to keep hitting at that level. But sadly, we don't even know how close he would have come, because once again the injury bug wrecked Buxton's season. On May 7, he went on the injured list with a hip strain, suffered while running to first base on a groundout. He returned on June 19, and in his third game back, he suffered a fracture in his left hand when Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle hit him with a 94 mph fastball.