Can The Twins Win With Dozier And Mauer?
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TodaySince he arrived in the majors in 2012, Dozier has been party to an awful lot of losing. He hasn't sniffed the playoffs in five seasons, and that will now more than likely extend to six. Next year is his last under contract with Minnesota, and given the organization's depth in young middle infielders, it seems unlikely they'll pony up to keep him around.
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are taking a pragmatic big-picture view, but to Dozier, the big picture is this: he's been doing his part – and then some – for half of a decade, and he's barely experienced a hint of serious contention. This year the team spent much of the first half in first place, and made a move toward going for it, then turned around and traded away their rental starter and best reliever.
Joe Mauer hasn't been as vocal (say what??), but he can certainly relate to Dozier's discontent. Mauer is the only longer-tenured Twin, whose career at least merits Hall of Fame arguments, and he has not one single postseason victory to show for it. On the one hand, his journey as a hometown kid turned MVP is the stuff of storybooks. On the other hand, the wasting of his generational talents by a team that could never build enough around him to go anywhere... it's kinda heartbreaking.
Of course, as far as 2017 is concerned, Dozier and Mauer would both be wise to look inward before directing their angst at the front office. They've been having perfectly solid years, but the Twins need more from them than that, and they have to recognize it. Dozier and Mauer are supposed to be the experienced, veteran cornerstones of the league's youngest lineup, but each has been downright ordinary.
Dozier has been his usual self: one of the game's better power-hitting middle infielders, and a fine defender, but not an upper-echelon player. Last year he was vastly better with the bases empty than with men on, and this year the contrast has only been sharper (stats entering Sunday):
Bases Empty: 295 PA, .268/.342/.517, 17 HR
Runners On: 169 PA, .208/.302/.318, 2 HR
Dozier's production with no ducks shouldn't be downplayed, because everything helps. But he hasn't risen to the occasion enough. Overall his performance doesn't amount to anything special; he ranks 13th out of 22 MLB-qualified second basemen in OPS, 14th in WAR.
And Mauer? It's still a pleasure to watch the man take an at-bat, and he's been exquisite with the mitt at first, but his offensive results are as pedestrian as ever. He ranks 22nd among 25 qualified MLB first basemen in OPS. He's still a nice enough piece to have in the lineup, but more of a role player than a game-changer, and that doesn't do much for this team right now.
Dozier and Mauer have been in the Twins organization for a combined 24 years, and it's commendable if they are adamant about winning before their tenures simultaneously come to an end next year. Is that realistic, though? And does their presence prevent the team from moving forward with a blueprint that, by necessity, doesn't include them?
Barring an improbable late-season charge this year, the 2018 season is shaping up as the first in Minnesota's true winning cycle. But for Dozier and Mauer, it will mean a lot more. Will they be able to make a run with the rising core before departing?
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