Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rick Cleveland: Making of a new baseball legend?

This past Sunday wasn't that much different than most days here lately for Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, the Fulton native and former Southern Miss baseball standout.

Playing in New York, Dozier extended his hitting streak to 22 games, made an unassisted double play in the field – and lost. It is the story of this season – and really of Dozier's Major League career.

He goes out and does his job above and beyond the call – at the plate, on the base baths and in the field, but the Twins lose. And lose. And lose. And then lose some more.

While Dozier has produced one of the best personal seasons of any second baseman in Major League history, Sunday's loss was the Twins' 95th of the season, compared to just 55 victories. Minnesota must win eight of its final 12 games to avoid the embarrassment of a 100-loss season.

Now then, compare those numbers with these: As of Sunday, Dozier, 29, was hitting .281, with 41 home runs, 35 doubles, five triples, 99 runs scored and 98 runs batted in. He has stolen 15 bases and owns a .576 slugging percentage. He ranks second in the league in home runs, third in slugging percentage.

“I am sure when I get back to Hattiesburg in a couple of weeks and have time to decompress, I'll look at those numbers and they'll taste a little better,” Dozier said by phone after the Twins' charter returned to Minnesota Sunday night.

“Right now, nothing really tastes good,” Dozier continued. “When you look up and see that you're 30 games out of first place and on pace to lose over 100 games, the losing just gets old and all the home runs in the world don't matter.

“People who saw me play at Southern Miss know how I am,” Dozier continued. “It's all about winning. You don't go between the lines for personal numbers. You go out there to win.”

His manager, Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, has called Dozier a model of consistency and appreciates that his best player keeps producing in the midst of all the losing.

“Dozier has put together a phenomenal run…,” Molitor told reporters earlier Sunday. “He's putting up historical numbers at his position. The hitting streak speaks to a little bit more of the consistency of his at-bats. He's doing his job. He's a catalyst for our offense. At the end of the year, you're going to look at the body of his work and it's going to be pretty impressive.”

It already is. Dozier has hit 39 of his 41 home runs while playing second base. His next home run, if he hits it, will set a new record for American League second baseman. The Major League record for home runs by a second baseman is 42, shared by Rogers Hornsby and Davey Johnson.

That's right: Rogers freaking Hornsby.

Dozier would have to hit three more to equal that. Of course, he hit three in one game recently. The Twins lost it, naturally.

How does it feel, Dozier was asked, to have his name mentioned in the same sentence with legends such as Rogers Hornsby?

Dozier laughed. “Well, I gotta tell you, I know I don't belong in the same sentence with Hornsby,” Dozier said. “He did what he did for a lot of years.”

Yes, and Dozier is just entering the prime years of a middle infielder's career. He is completing the second year of a four-year, $20 million contract. Two more seasons similar to this one, Dozier could break the bank in free agency in 2018.

But Dozier isn't getting ahead of himself. He knows that three and a half months ago he was slumping, below the .200 batting average mark. What happened?

“I was getting into bad habits, trying to yank everything out of the park,” Dozier said. “I got back to waiting on good pitches, and I moved back four or five inches further off the plate. And it just started. I got in a groove and home runs and doubles started coming in bunches. The ball started looking like a big ol' beach ball. That's baseball. It's a game of streaks.”

USM baseball coach Scott Berry, one of Dozier's biggest fans, has watched closely.

“To me, he looks a little more spread out in his stance and really stays in his legs more,” Berry said. “His approach and timing at the plate are more consistent. Most importantly, he has developed an eye to lay off pitches out of the zone.”

The results are amazing – indeed, historic.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org

2 comments:

Rubber Ducky said...

Base baths? Is that where you slide into second and have a quick scrub-a-dub?

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe Dozier is having this much success. He was good at USM but I never expected him to have this kind of production in the majors.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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