The end of 2012 is quickly approaching; as such, we have compiled a list of the top 12 Minnesota sports stories -- positive or negative -- from the year. We'll be counting them down every weekday from now until Jan. 1, when the top story will run. Here is No. 6:

It might not be overdramatizing to say 2011 was a professional nightmare for Joe Mauer, particularly when you consider everything that preceded it. He won his third batting title and first MVP award in 2009. He signed a huge new contract and hit .327 as the Twins won the AL Central for the sixth time in nine seasons in 2010, all the while opening a beautiful new ballpark. Mauer was the toast of the town.

And it all came crashing down in 2011 for St. Paul's own. The year started with a slump then deviated into the madness of whatever "bilateral leg weakness" was. It ended with pneumonia -- as well as career lows in pretty much every offensive category invented.

All of this made 2012 an important year for Mauer. Despite lingering critics, it's hard to argue that Mauer was anything but his old self. He hit .319, had an American League-best .416 on-base percentage and set career highs in walks (90), games (147) and plate appearances (641). Though the Twins improved by only three games on the field, from 63 to 66 wins, Mauer's contributions helped the offense scored 82 more runs than it did in 2011.

To top off the year, Mauer got married on Dec. 1 to Maddie Bisanz, a fellow Cretin-Derham Hall alum. If Christian Ponder's recent post-marriage on-field performance is any indicator, 2013 could be an even better year for Joe.