Brian Dozier, who had been a four-year star at Southern Miss, made his major league debut on May 7, 2012, just 10 short years ago, launching one of the most productive careers ever by a USM alum. In that first game, Dozier went 1-for-4 as Minnesota’s shortstop in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Target Field. Dozier played only seven full seasons in the big leagues but touched all the significant bases: He was a record-setter, an All-Star, a Gold Glove winner and a World Series champion. He batted .244 with 192 homers and 115 steals in his career. His 42 homers in 2016 set a record for American League second basemen. He homered in his first postseason at-bat and later won a ring with the 2019 Washington Nationals. He retired, somewhat surprisingly at age 33, prior to the 2021 season after barely playing (for the New York Mets) in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign. Drafted by the Twins in the eighth round in 2009 as a shortstop, Dozier didn’t stick at that position once he reached the majors. The Twins moved him to second base, which he had not played since he was a kid, after his 2012 big league trial, which ended abruptly in August. As time would tell, it was a salient move. P.S. Continuing a USM/Twins theme, Matt Wallner had a five-hit, two-homer day on Friday for Wichita in the Texas League. The 6-foot-5 left-handed slugger, the 39th overall pick by Minnesota in the 2019 draft, is batting .243 with six homers and 19 RBIs in his first Double-A season. He was scuffling along at .073 with one homer on April 21, but has gone 14-for-29 since, including the explosion in Friday’s doubleheader.
Surely, sometime this season, when a decent number of fans are allowed back in Target Field, the Minnesota Twins will have a Brian Dozier Day of some sort. The former Southern Miss star, who announced his retirement on Thursday, deserves it. He was the face of the franchise for the better part of the seven years he spent with the team that drafted him out of USM in 2009. One Minneapolis columnist wrote that Dozier ranks as the third-best second baseman in the Twins’ long history, behind Hall of Famer Rod Carew and Chuck Knoblauch. Dozier hit more homers than any Twins second baseman in history and tied an MLB record for homers by a second baseman in a single season when he launched 42 in 2016. With 192 career bombs, Dozier ranks fifth all-time among Mississippi-born players. He topped 1,000 career hits and 100 career steals. But of course, he was about a lot more than numbers. He won several leadership and community service awards during his time in Minnesota. “He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever been around in my life,” Ron Gardenhire, one of Dozier’s managers, said in a Zoom call tribute arranged by the Twins on Thursday. It seems a shame that Dozier is done at 33, apparently healthy after barely playing in 2020. Players get old quick these days. But he said during a very upbeat Zoom call that he is at peace with his decision and is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and two young kids. He even joked about heading off to have a beer rather than to a ballfield. Dozier crammed a lot into his nine MLB seasons. He was an All-Star, a Home Run Derby participant, a Gold Glove winner and a World Series champion (with Washington in 2019). He deserves to be celebrated.
Robinson Cano is the New York Mets’ starting second baseman, but there may be playing time there in 2020 for Brian Dozier, who signed a minor league deal with the club today, presumably to back up Cano. Dozier, the former Southern Miss star from Fulton, was released by San Diego two weeks ago after being left off their summer camp 60-man roster. Dozier, 33, hit .238 with 20 home runs last year for World Series champ Washington but played little in the postseason. Though it seems very unlikely Dozier would make the 30-man active roster for the Mets’ Friday opener against Atlanta, his chance may come. Cano, an eight-time All-Star, is 37 and on the decline. The lefty hitter batted a career-low .256 with 13 homers in 107 games for the Mets in 2019, and he struggled in particular against left-handers. Dozier is right-handed hitter who has 192 career homers and a Gold Glove on his resume. He had signed a minors deal with the Padres in the off-season and spent spring training with them. He began his eight-year MLB career with Minnesota in 2012.
Perusing the 60-man rosters released by most MLB teams on Sunday, there are a couple of surprises. One, Brian Dozier is NOT on San Diego’s list. Two, Tyler Keenan, drafted just this month, IS on Seattle’s. Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star, signed a minor league deal with the Padres and was vying for the second base job in spring training, batting .227 in eight games. But the eight-year veteran is not currently in the pool of eligible players, though he reportedly could be added later. Ole Miss product Keenan, a fourth-round pick who signed late last week for $500,000, is among three 2020 draftees Seattle put on its list, which is replete with prospect types. Keenan is a lefty-hitting third baseman with big power. … USM alum Nick Sandlin, Mississippi State product Jack Kruger and ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison are among the non 40-man roster players appearing in the 60-man pools. Sandlin, a reliever, is with Cleveland; Kruger, a catcher, with the Los Angeles Angels; and Rolison, a lefty starter, with Colorado. Rolison, a 2018 draftee, is the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect, per mlb.com. Minnesota did not release its list on Sunday, but speculation is former State standout Brent Rooker and possibly USM alum Matt Wallner could be on it. Teams start summer camp on July 1, though not all of the 60-man roster members will report to the big league stadium. The others will go to an alternate facility. P.S. It hasn’t been officially announced as a signing, but Blaze Jordan reportedly has agreed to a $1.7 million bonus with Boston, well above the slot value for the third-round pick. The DeSoto Central High product, a longtime MSU commit, was the 89th overall selection. … MSU alum Jordan Westburg has formally signed with Baltimore ($2.4M as a competitive balance pick after the first round), leaving only State’s J.T. Ginn and UM’s Anthony Servideo unsigned among the seven in-state players drafted June 10-11.
Another potential landing spot for free agent Brian Dozier appears to have been eliminated. The Chicago Cubs, in the market for a second baseman, have signed Jason Kipnis to a minor league deal. The Cubs were reported to be interested in ex-Southern Miss standout Dozier, who is no doubt seeking a major league contract. Several teams have been linked to Dozier. One of those was Arizona, which opted to trade for Starling Marte and make Ketel Marte its regular second baseman. Miami is another; the Marlins’ current starter is Isan Diaz, who batted .173 in 49 games as a rookie last year. Dozier, 32, hit .238 with 20 home runs in 2019 for Washington, though he got only six postseason at-bats as the Nationals rolled to the World Series title. Over his eight-year career, Dozier is a .245 hitter (.326 on-base percentage) with 192 homers. He made $9 million in 2019.
Rumors that Arizona was interested in signing Brian Dozier to play second base apparently were quelled on Monday when the Diamondbacks traded for Starling Marte, who’ll play center field and make Ketel Marte the D’backs’ everyday second baseman. Former Southern Miss standout Dozier, who turns 33 in May, batted .238 (.340 on base) with 20 homers for world champion Washington in 2019, though he played sparingly toward season’s end and in the postseason. Dozier, an eight-year MLB veteran, is a career .245 hitter with 192 homers. He’s a good defensive player and a good clubhouse guy, even if his offensive production has fallen off, so it seems likely that he’ll land a job somewhere as a role player. P.S. Reports continue to pop up linking Mitch Moreland to Boston, where the Mississippi State product – and current free agent — played the previous three years, smashing 56 homers and collecting a World Series ring.
Two Mississippians were on the field the last time there was a World Series game in Washington, D.C. They wore flannel uniforms and gloves that looked like leather oven mitts. Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House. It was 86 years ago. Nationals Park will play host next week to a Series game, or two or three, marking the first time the nation’s capital will have hosted a Fall Classic contest since way, way back in 1933. On Oct. 7 of that year, at Griffith Stadium, the Washington Senators (sometimes called the Nationals) lost Game 5 – and the series – to the New York Giants 4-3 on a 10th-inning homer by Mel Ott. Ellisville native Buddy Myer manned second base and batted leadoff for the Senators, going 0-for-5. Starkville native Hughie Critz played second and hit second for the Giants, also putting up an 0-for-5. There have been many twists and turns in Washington’s baseball history since. That Senators franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961 – the Twins have made three Series appearances — and was replaced by an expansion Senators franchise, which later moved to Texas, where, as the Rangers, the team has made two Series appearances. The current Nationals club arrived in Washington in 2005 from Montreal, a 1969 expansion club which never made the Series. Finally, after an 86-year wait, Washington gets to host the World Series again. As fate would have it, there is a second baseman from Mississippi — Fulton’s Brian Dozier – on the 2019 Washington club.
Brian Dozier did not contribute to Washington’s 18-hit, 14-run barrage in a 14-inning loss to Milwaukee on Saturday night, going 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter. Maybe he felt a little left out. On Sunday, the ex-Southern Miss star started at second base and made quite an impact. Dozier went 3-for-4 with two of the Nationals’ eight home runs plus a season-high four RBIs in a 16-8 victory against the Brewers, the Nats’ sixth win in the last seven games. Dozier said in a TV interview that he felt energized by the way his teammates were swinging the bats; they had 19 hits all told on Sunday. “You kind of want to join the crowd,” he said. A free agent signee in the off-season, Dozier has struggled at times this year. His .236 average is about 10 points below his career mark coming into 2019. He had only two homers this month before Sunday’s outburst. He now has 19 on the year, one shy of reaching 20 for the sixth straight season. He has 191 career homers; only four Mississippi natives have topped 200 career bombs in the big leagues. And he went over 1,000 career hits earlier this year. As the Nationals chase a playoff berth – they’re 5.5 games out in the National League East and lead the wild card race – they can probably count on Dozier, now an eight-year veteran, to step up in some big moments. P.S. The Brewers, also in the NL playoff hunt, surely are missing Brandon Woodruff, their All-Star starter out of Wheeler High and Mississippi State. Woodruff (11-3, 3.75 ERA) has been out since July 22 with an oblique injury. He reportedly has resumed throwing and could return next month.
As the Washington Nationals try to stay relevant in the National League East race, they’ve been getting a lot of production of late from a certain free agent signee. Over his last 15 games, he’s batting .327 with five homers and 12 RBIs. He homered in both games of a Wednesday doubleheader and drove in four runs as the Nationals swept Philadelphia to get to 35-38. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star, has overcome a slow start with his new team to raise his average to .235. He’s got 12 homers, 28 RBIs and 28 runs. Dozier, who finished 2018 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed a one-year, $9 million deal with the Nationals, who are starting to get some bang for those bucks. For comparison sake, the marquee free agent who left Washington and signed with Philadelphia for 13 years and $330 million is in the throes of wicked slump. Bryce Harper, who went 0-for-4 in Wednesday’s twinbill, is hitting .208 with one homer in his last 15 games for a skidding Phillies team that has fallen to 39-34 and 4 games back of Atlanta in the NL East. Harper is batting .243 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs and is third in the NL in strikeouts with 91. (To be fair, he’s tied for second in walks with 47.) He’s even getting booed at home games. Philadelphia brass may not be feeling buyer’s remorse just yet, but they certainly aren’t getting the bang for the buck they expected. … Dozier’s 12th homer of the year accounted for one of the two runs the Nationals scored in a 2-0 win in Wednesday’s second game, the highlight of which was Max Scherzer’s seven brilliant innings the day after suffering a broken nose. “That’s why you put him in the category of one of the best, if not the best, in the game, the best of our generation,” Dozier told mlb.com.
If he produces a typical season, Brian Dozier will easily top 1,000 career hits in the big leagues in 2019. The Fulton native and former Southern Miss star is the active leader in hits among Mississippi-born players in MLB with 954 through six-plus seasons. Notching a thousand career hits is an impressive feat, requiring a combination of skill, opportunity and longevity. Dozier, 32 in May, will need another six or so productive seasons to reach 2,000 hits, which only four Mississippi-born players have managed to do. Grenada native Dave Parker tops that list with 2,712, followed by Ellisville’s Buddy Myer (2,131), Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks (2,107) and Greenville’s Frank White (2,006). Dozier, who’ll play second base for the Washington Nationals in 2019, could also reach another hits milestone this season. The record for a USM alum is 1,142, by Jim Davenport. Kevin Young is second with 1,007. … Former Mississippi State star Rafael Palmeiro is among the 32 players with 3,000 hits; his 3,020 are by far the most by a Mississippi college alumnus. Ex-Bulldogs great Will Clark had 2,176. The most by an Ole Miss product is 1,991 by Gee Walker, a Gulfport native who played in the 1930s and ’40s. Don Kessinger had 1,931. Dave Clark leads Jackson State alums with 518. … Amory’s Mitch Moreland, another Mississippi State product, is No. 2 on the state’s active hits list with 857. (Jackson’s Seth Smith, presumably retired, is sitting on 934.) Moreland, Boston first baseman, probably won’t get to 1,000 this year – his career-high for a season is 131 – but should make it in 2020. … … Bobby Abreu, who played for the Jackson Generals in the mid-’90s, is the leader, with 2,470 hits, among former Jackson area Double-A players. Hubie Brooks leads former Jackson Mets with 1,608, and Brian McCann, still active, is tops among ex-Mississippi Braves with 1,521.