MINNEAPOLIS – Brian Dozier’s frustration was understandable, but his decision to voice it seemed questionable.
The Twins had fallen five games behind Kansas City for the second American League wild card spot by July 31, when the brain trust of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine decided to trade Jaime Garcia to the Yankees only six days after acquiring the veteran pitcher from Atlanta. At that point, the Twins had dropped six of seven.
“That’s frustrating within itself, to not go on a little run,” Dozier told the Star Tribune at the time. “A couple of games could have gone differently. We should be adding [players]. It’s frustrating. … I know all these guys feel the same way.”
Dozier, the Twins second baseman, made his comments before the Twins also shipped closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington in an apparent sign they were willing to wave the white flag on the 2017 season.
Dozier’s words carried less weight because he hadn’t done more. On July 31, he was hitting .247 with a .329 on-base percentage and a .438 slugging percentage. Coming off a season in which he had 42 home runs, Dozier had 17 homers and 52 RBIs in 96 games.
Less talk and more action was required if Dozier really wanted to have the impact of a leader.
To his credit, Dozier almost immediately began to back up his words. He hasn’t stopped.
Always solid at second base, Dozier entered Tuesday’s game against San Diego at Target Field having hit .284/.381/.561 with 12 home runs and 30 RBIs in 39 games since Aug. 1.
Dozier improved on those numbers Tuesday by belting a 2-0 pitch from Padres starter Travis Wood to the opposite field for a lead off home run in what turned into a 16-0 rout of San Diego. Dozier’s eighth leadoff homer of the season was the first of seven home runs Tuesday by the Twins, establishing a Target Field record.
Dozier, who becomes the fifth Twin to hit 30 or more home runs in consecutive seasons, ended the evening 3-for-4, finishing a double short of hitting for the cycle. Dozier’s final a-bat came in the seventh inning when he was hit by a pitch from Padres reliever Cory Mazzoni right before Kennys Vargas blasted a majestic three-run homer to right field.
Dozier’s play is one reason the Twins are two games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild card spot.
Dozier, 30, spent last offseason having to hear his name floated in trade rumors on a near weekly basis as it was assumed that 2017 would be far more of a rebuild for the Twins than it has proven to be.
Coming off an incredible, power-filled second half, the assumption was that Dozier’s value never would be higher entering the third season of a reasonable four-year, $20 million that is paying $6 million in 2017 and will increase to $9 million in 2018.
Falvey and Levine, however, proved they weren’t going to trade Dozier simply for the sake of it and when they couldn’t get the Los Angeles Dodgers to offer up more than righthanded pitching prospect Jose De Leon they pulled the veteran off the market. (The Tampa Bay Rays dealt second baseman Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers for De Leon, who has been on the disabled list three times his season.)
Given his contributions for a second consecutive second half, one has to wonder if this offseason Falvey and Levine will go from shopping Dozier to locking him up to a long-term extension.