Brian Dozier hit his 40th home run of the season for the Twins on Monday, an accomplishment that should be celebrated regardless of the circumstances. For a player to hit that many homers — let alone a middle infielder who had a rough first 2.5 months like Dozier — is extremely impressive.
That said, there is also the sense that it’s a little bittersweet. Nobody can take away from the individual accomplishment, but the fact that this breakthrough has come during a season in which the Twins have once again lost 90 games and very well could reach 100 serves to minimize the impact at least. A staggering 23 of Dozier’s home runs have come during Twins losses.
Given just how good Dozier has been while his teammates have largely struggled so mightily, his season has earned a place in Minnesota sports history as one of the most “wasted” of all-time. Again, not his fault — just a function of timing. Dozier has done more than his share, just like these other Minnesota athletes who also make the list for having amazing years during less-than-amazing seasons for their teams.
*Jared Allen, 2011 Vikings: Allen put together one of the most impressive pass rushing season in NFL history, collecting 22 sacks (a half-sack shy of Michael Strahan’s league record). But he did so for one of the worst Vikings teams in franchise history, a squad that went 3-13 after Donovan McNabb gave way at QB to a rookie Christian Ponder.
*Brad Radke, 1997 Twins: Twins starting pitchers other than Brad Radke combined to go 30-66 with a 5.98 ERA in 1997, which helps explain why the squad finished a dismal 68-94. But nobody should blame Radke, who was the shining beacon of hope in the midst of the wreckage. The longtime Twins starter had his best season, going 20-10 while logging 239 2/3 innings.
*Rachel Banham, 2015-16 Gophers women’s basketball: On paper, the most recent season for the Gophers wasn’t bad — not nearly as bad, say, as the rest of the teams on this list. They went 20-12, after all, with a 11-7 Big Ten record. But they also missed the NCAA tournament in spite of 914 points from Banham — which included a 60-point game against Northwestern. All of that was after she came back for another year following a knee injury, only to fall short again of her NCAA tourney goal.
*Kevin Garnett, 2005-06 Timberwolves: You could say the Wolves wasted the vast majority of KG’s prime, but they did at least make it to the playoffs eight straight seasons — including one trip to the Western Conference finals. But 2005-06? That was just a sad collection of mismatched parts that went 33-49 despite Garnett putting up 21.8 points and 12.7 rebounds at age 29.
*Harmon Killebrew, 1961 Twins: Killer crushed 46 homers and knocked in 122 runs in the Twins’ first season in Minnesota, but much like Dozier the dingers weren’t enough. The Twins still finished 70-90 that year, 38 games out of first place.
You could make the case that Adrian Peterson’s staggering 2,097-yard season was wasted by the Vikings in 2012, but they at least made the playoffs that year. Plenty of others are also worthy of consideration; feel free to add to the list in the comments.