No, not the Minnesota Twins' best player in 2012. That would be Joe Mauer, which you don't need a trained professional like myself to tell you. In this series, we're trying to identify the players who best symbolize their teams' seasons.
Nineteen-hundred and sixty-one ... that was a long time ago! That's how long the Minnesota Twins have been the Minnesota Twins (before that, they were the Washington Senators). In all the years since, through thick and through thin and through Bombo Rivera, the Minnesota Twins never lost 95 or more games in two straight seasons.
And nobody saw it coming, either. How could they have? The Twins won division titles in 2009 and '10 ... only to fall off a cliff, losing 99 games in 2011 and 96 more this year.
So what happened? Well, it's not real hard to figure. The well-paid veterans -- notably Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano -- stopped producing, and the younger players thrown into the breach simply weren't good enough.
Were so ineffectual, in fact, that Mauer's resurgence and first-year Twin Josh Willingham's outstanding campaign were moot.
It's not difficult to spot young Twins who didn't help the cause, but let's talk about first baseman Chris Parmelee.
Last season, Parmelee got promoted to the big club in September despite just so-so numbers in Class AA ... and then absolutely destroyed American League pitchers for a month. In 21 games, he batted .355 with four homers, 14 RBI, and a dozen walks. That performance, as you might imagine, earned Parmelee plenty of playing time this spring ... and he flopped; in the middle of May, the Twins sent him to Triple-A with a .179 batting average and three RBI in 27 games.
Parmelee made it back for a couple of stints later in the summer, and actually hit three homers in a four-game stretch last month. But he hit only two home runs the whole rest of the season.
He's still only 24, and he did hit exceptionally well during his Triple-A time this season. But like Ben Revere and Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimón and Trevor Plouffe and most of the pitchers not named Scott Diamond, Parmelee exemplifies the Twins' recent failure to get top-notch production from their young, homegrown players. And we haven't even mentioned Danny Valencia, Alexi Casilla, and Denard Span, who no longer qualify as "young" but were once considered future stars, at least by management.
The Twins have never been able to buy their way to a pennant. They've always done it with strong scouting and player development. But they seem to have lost the magic touch. And even with Terry Ryan running the show after a few years in semi-retirement, the Twins seem to be a few years away from refilling the talent pipeline. They might not lose 95 games again next season. But their next division title is hard to envision.