27 Nov

the envelope please …

This was a close call. Drew Pomeranz went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA last season and was a key player in Boston’s drive to a division title. But Brian Dozier, who also had sparkling numbers, was arguably THE key player in unheralded Minnesota’s drive to a wild card berth. On that basis, the former Southern Miss star is a repeat winner of the Cool Papa Bell Award, given here for the best performance by a Mississippian in the majors. Dozier, who also won the 2016 award, batted a career-high .271 (.359 on-base) with 34 homers, 93 RBIs, 106 runs and 16 steals in his fifth full season with the Twins. He was a regular on the highlight shows for his defense at second base. What’s more, he led off the American League wild card game against New York with a home run, though the Twins couldn’t hold the lead. No disrespect to Pomeranz — or for that matter Zack Cozart, Corey Dickerson, Jarrod Dyson, Lance Lynn and Adam Frazier, each of whom had a very good season – but Dozier was simply a cut above. … The award honors Negro Leagues legend Cool Papa Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Previous honorees include Mitch Moreland, Corey Dickerson, Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan.

03 Oct

persistence

Brian Dozier makes his first trip to the postseason tonight, and it could be a short stay for the Southern Miss product. Dozier’s Minnesota Twins meet the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the American League’s wild card game. One game, loser goes home. The Yankees are heavily favored. Of course, no one gave the Twins much of a chance of making the postseason at all back in July, after they traded away a couple of key pitchers. Nevertheless, they persisted, to borrow a phrase. From Aug. 5 to season’s end, they went 33-21. They clinched the second wild card with four days left in the season. Dozier, the leadoff batter and emotional leader of the team, batted .303 with 17 home runs and 41 RBIs in August and September. He hit a clutch homer on Sept. 26 that beat Cleveland and reduced Minnesota’s clinching magic number to 1. Tonight’s game will start with Dozier at the plate facing right-hander Luis Severino. The numbers don’t tell us much. Dozier is 0-for-1 with a walk this season against Severino, who went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2017. Dozier is 2-for-9 this season at Yankee Stadium, 15-for-62 (.242) with two homers there in his career. But there is more to consider than numbers. Dozier, floated as a trade piece in the off-season, wanted to stay with Minnesota, the team that drafted him eight years ago, even though the Twins were not expected to contend. “He had a lot of unfinished business that he wanted to get done,” USM coach Scott Berry told WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg on Monday. Dozier persisted, and he might just be getting started.

27 Sep

not to be overlooked

While the frontrunners for American League MVP appear to be Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge, Brian Dozier deserves at least some honorable mention. The ex-Southern Miss star from Fulton is the engine driving the Minnesota Twins toward an improbable playoff berth. He hit the big home run on Tuesday that helped beat Cleveland and reduced the Twins’ magic number for the second wild card spot to 1. A team that lost 103 games in 2016 is now 83-74 with 38 come-from-behind victories. The Twins, who deployed 10 pitchers in Tuesday’s game, had squandered two leads and were down 6-4 in the eighth when Dozier connected for an opposite-field, three-run bomb. They won 8-6. “That’s what it’s all about … people picking each other up,” Dozier said in a postgame TV interview. Dozier leads the team in games played, hits, runs, RBIs, home runs and walks. He’s also an excellent second baseman. He started rather slowly this season but has hit .291 with 20 homers since the All-Star break. He has 16 homers and 38 RBIs in August and September. For the year, he’s at .264 with 33 homers, 90 RBIs and 102 runs. And to think, there were rumors in the off-season that the club was seeking to trade him. As the analysts like to say, sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make.

21 Aug

not so fast there

They were playing “Taps” for the Minnesota Twins’ season as recently as Aug. 3. They had just traded away closer Brandon Kintzler and starter Jaime Garcia and stood 51-54, well off the playoff pace. They were coming off a rough 2-6 road trip that a Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer called “the beginning of the end.” But Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star, had other ideas. As if to proclaim, “This season isn’t over until I say it’s over,” the veteran second baseman and leadoff batter went on a tear – and the team followed. Dozier hit his 25th home run and scored three times as Minnesota beat Arizona 12-5 on Sunday to improve its record to 63-59. Dozier, a .260 hitter on the year, is batting .329 in August. Over his last 16 games, he has belted eight home runs, driven in 16 runs and scored 19. Heading into a doubleheader today against the Chicago White Sox, the Twins are tied for the second wild card and 5 games back of first-place Cleveland in the American League Central. Having just put Miguel Sano on the 10-day disabled list, the Twins may look to Dozier to carry even more of a load. He appears more than capable. P.S. Milwaukee sent rookie Brandon Woodruff back to Triple-A Colorado Springs – but not because of any disappointment in the Mississippi State alum’s performance. The Brewers, still in playoff contention in the National League, won’t need a fifth starter until September. Woodruff is 1-1, 1.62 ERA in his three starts.

07 Aug

power broker

Former Southern Miss star Brian Dozier reached the 20-home run plateau for the fourth straight season when he went deep on Sunday in Minnesota’s 6-5 win over Texas. He joins fellow Mississippians Corey Dickerson (21) and Hunter Renfroe (20) in the 20-bomb club. Never considered a power hitter in college or in the minors, Dozier started pulling the ball more in 2013, when he hit 18 homers for the Twins. He followed with seasons of 23, 28 and then 42 last year. Dozier also drove in 99 runs and scored 104 in 2016, numbers he isn’t going to reach this year. He is batting .248 with 56 RBIs and 54 runs. The subject of trade rumors in the off-season, Dozier insisted he wanted to remain in Minnesota, where, despite his best efforts, things haven’t gone well. The Twins haven’t made the postseason during Dozier’s time with the club and aren’t likely to break through in 2017. He is under contract for one more year, so it seems likely he’ll be hitting homers for some other club in the near future.

12 Nov

the winner is …

Brian Dozier. Hands down. The former Southern Miss star is the winner of the 2016 Cool Papa Bell Award, given here to the Mississippian (native or college alum) who had the best season in the big leagues. The 29-year-old Dozier, in his fifth MLB campaign with Minnesota, hit .268 with 42 homers, 99 RBIs, 104 runs and 18 steals in 155 games. He also played a solid second base (eight errors, .989 fielding percentage). Several Mississippians had nice years – see Drew Pomeranz, Kendall Graveman, Tim Anderson, Billy Hamilton, Seth Smith — but none approached Dozier’s numbers or impact. The Twins announced on Oct. 19 the winners of their annual Diamond Awards, and Dozier took three of them, including the Calvin R. Griffith Award as the Most Valuable Twin. He was also the recipient of the Charles O. Johnson Award for Most Improved Twin and the Bob Allison Award given to the Twins player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field. … Dozier follows Mitch Moreland, Corey Dickerson, Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan as Cool Papa Bell Award winners. The award honors Negro Leagues legend Cool Papa Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

06 Sep

name-dropping

Here is a name to know today: Alfonso Soriano. He is the only American League second baseman to hit more home runs (39) in a season than Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier has hit in 2016 (38). Here’s another: Davey Johnson. He holds the all-time record for homers in a season by a second baseman (43). And yet another: Mark Trumbo. He is the only player in MLB with more homers (41) this season than Dozier. And still some more: Max Kepler, Justin Morneau, Bob Allison, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva. They are the only players in Minnesota Twins history with a three-homer game, a feat Dozier accomplished on Monday at Target Field. Killebrew holds the Twins’ single-season record with 49 homers, which might seem out of Dozier’s reach until you consider that he has hit 21 bombs in his last 35 games. There’s roughly a month left in the season. Alas, the Twins lost again on Monday, 11-5 to Kansas City, to fall to 51-87. “It would be a lot better if we were on the winning side of it,” said Dozier, who took an awkward curtain call after his third clout. P.S. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College standout, helped fuel the Royals’ win with three hits, three runs and a steal (No. 26). KC, the defending World Series champ, is hanging around in the American League wild card race.