Brian Dozier Is Taking The Lead
Image courtesy of Kim Klement, USA Today"Leadership" has always been an ambiguous term in pro sports. It's one of those intangible, immeasurable factors that is impossible to quantify. But no one can deny its import, especially on a team full of inexperienced players still learning how to be big-leaguers.
Many in and around the organization have suggested that a leadership void was, in some way, responsible for the disaster that played out in 2016. Torii Hunter's absence in the clubhouse was felt, says this line of thought.
Upon taking over the front office, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine almost immediately cited this as a need.
You could excuse Dozier for bristling a bit at this talk. All he did last year was go out and hit 42 home runs, a Herculean individual effort amidst a total organizational failure. He did his job and then some. Still, it does appear that he's taken it upon himself to embrace a more vocal and commanding role as clubhouse leader this year.
In spring training, he rarely camped at his corner locker, instead spending nearly all his time moving about and interacting with other players. When the Twins decided to sell key assets at the deadline, he expressed frustration on behalf of the group – "It does suck ... I can speak for everybody and say that." On at least one occasion this summer, he has reached out to a local writer directly to express displeasure over what he viewed as unfair coverage of a young teammate.
I'm not going to say these things are out of character or unprecedented for Dozier, but from my view he's shifted it up a gear noticeably. How much of an impact has it had? Who knows. Again, it's impossible to quantify, and pretty pointless to speculate about, especially from the outside.
But what's been truly striking over the past month is the way Dozier has let his play do the talking. When he griped about the front office, it fell a little flat; the Twins had fallen to seven games out of first place by dropping five of six on a West Coast road trip through LA and Oakland, and Dozier had gone 5-for-29 (.172) over the two series. In the last game before the deadline, he struck out five times in an extra-inning affair they lost by one.
A week later, I pondered whether the Twins could really make a run with Dozier and Joe Mauer, their two most-tenured players who both have contracts expiring after next year. The conclusion was that for this to happen both would need to raise their level of production and turn from role players to driving forces.
Both veterans have done just that, answering the call when things were slipping away. Mauer suddenly reverted to vintage form in August, slashing .336/.405/.458 in 28 games. And Dozier? Just a couple days after announcing "No white flags here," he embarked on an epic power binge with five home runs in six games (the Twins went 5-1). His OPS since the deadline sell is over 1.000.
On Wednesday, with the Twins again on the ropes after losing five of six to the Royals and Rays, Dozier confronted the urgency of their series finale in Tampa: “It’s a game we really need to win."
So what does he do, coming off an 0-fer in Tuesday's dispiriting 2-1 setback? He goes out and rips a leadoff homer, setting the tone in a much-needed 10-6 victory.
These Twins have proven to be, above all, a tremendously resilient team.
They're just following the leader.
- Cory Engelhardt, Oldgoat_MN, Sconnie and 5 others like this