Remembrances of Twins teams in the 2000s tend to highlight their rags-to-riches — or contraction-to-contention — rise, so it’s easy to forget their star power.
Those teams featured Johan Santana, who would win two Cy Young Awards; Joe Mauer, who would win three batting titles and an MVP; Justin Morneau, who would earn an MVP; four different Gold Glove winners; and aging notables such as Jim Thome.
The 2017 Twins are remindful not so much of the late-2000s Twins but of the 2001 and 2002 teams that had not yet developed accomplished stars.
As the franchise returns to the postseason on Tuesday in New York, the Twins have only one current position-player All-Star, Miguel Sano, and he missed most of the last six weeks of the season with an injury. For the first time since 2017, the most valuable Twin is not he who would bring most in a trade.
So who is the Twins’ 2017 MVP?
Ervin Santana? He may be the most important Twin. He provided the best pitching and the most innings for a pitching staff that otherwise spent the season in a desperate search for competence, in the rotation and the bullpen.
Byron Buxton? For a pitching staff that always seemed on the verge of collapse, Buxton saved innumerable runs, which in turn saved wear and tear on valuable arms, and developed into a dynamic baserunner and streaky power hitter.
Sano? He would have won the award had it been given in mid-August. Before his injury, he was the Twins’ most important bat while proving adept enough in the field to remain at third base, which allowed Joe Mauer to remain at first base, where he performed like a Gold Glover.
Eduardo Escobar? He took over for Sano, provided similar production and even better fielding and filled a void in the middle of the order, while displaying the best personality in the clubhouse.
Jason Castro? He did not experience an offensive renaissance but did dramatically upgrade the Twins’ defense at catcher. Yes, that includes the framing of pitches.
Jorge Polanco? His late-season offensive surge might have become the most surprising aspect of a surprising season.
Taylor Rogers? Without him, the Twins may have spent the season intentionally walking every opposing lefthanded batter in the late innings.
Eddie Rosario? If statistics weren’t so readily available, if you only watched the games, you would probably make a case for Rosario as the Twins’ MVP. He delivered so many big hits, and throws, that you would be justified in making him your pick.
Brian Dozier? He led the Twins in games played, runs, hits, home runs, RBI (despite batting leadoff), walks, intentional walks and total bases. He finished second on the team in OPS and steals. He is also the Twin most often cited as a leader.
Who’s the team MVP? “You’re probably asking the wrong guy,” he said. “I don’t believe in that stuff. I really hate awards because they mean absolutely nothing.
“But if you twist my arm, in my opinion Ervin Santana is the guy. I even hate when they do the big awards and give the pitcher an MVP, but the way he hasn’t missed a start, led our pitching staff, everyone feeds off him, the amount of time where we lose a few straight and it’s up to him to salvage one and he pitches eight innings, he’s the guy.
“But I really hate awards.”
He’s going to hate the rest of this column, then, because Dozier is the Twins’ MVP.
Last winter the Twins considered trading him and much of the fan base seemed to desperately wish they would. Instead of exchanging their best player for a pitching prospect, the Twins kept him, and reaped more than they could have imagined.
Dozier is the Twins’ most valuable player this season. So let’s not spend this winter wondering which Class A prospect preparing for a future Tommy John surgery the Twins could get in return for him.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org