For years we maligned the fact that the Twins hadn't had a set third baseman since Corey Koskie, and prior to Jason KubelI'm pretty sure we still longed for the days where Paul Molitor if not Chili Davis manned the designated hitter position. Has shortstop been so different? We felt like Jason Bartlett could have made a home there, but outside of a blistering second half of 2006 he only played one full season at the position. (Not that it had anything to do with him, but it's true.)
Between Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, J.J. Hardy, Alexi Casilla, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Camey Carroll, Adam Everett, Orlando Cabrera, Matt Tolbert, Luis Rodriguez, Juan Castro, and the aforementioned Bartlett, this team hasn't had a consistent shortstop for more than a year unless we go all the way back to Cristian Guzman.
Yeah, Guzman. This guy.
Cristian Guzman Commercial 2001 (via theaverageguys)
Now we're at the dawn of what could be the Brian Dozier era. Provided he can keep the job of course. Let's talk more after the jump.
Whenever you give an inexperienced guy a shot, you really have to give him that shot. Turn over the keys to the position, let him play, and don't pull the plug just because he makes mistakes. Rookies don't always play well; it's usually quite the opposite. But if you want to see if he can be your guy, then he needs to play and play every day. Ron Gardenhire has done that with Dozier.
Of course none of that means that the player should feel too comfortable in his shoes, or that the training stops. On Monday, Gardenhire made those issues clear as well. Gardy's playing it day-by-day, but it's clear that he nor the organization are sure that sending Dozier to Triple-A is the right thing to do. Still, it's on their minds.
"The options are send him back down, get him grounded again -- get him out of that, 'I'm in the big leagues' mentality -- and then bring him back up. Are we going to do that? I have no clue.
"It's always talked about. We haven't been sitting here saying, 'Well, we'll send Dozier down.' 'No, let's not.' 'Well, he hit a homer (on Thursday).' No, what's talked about is what's right for him? If he continues to struggle offensively, he's not drawing walks, is it right to do? We talked about that at the all-star break, and believe me, I've wondered myself."
The team is clearly looking for Dozier to take the proverbial bull by the horns. They want to give him the opportunity to do so, but they also need to see not just effort but improvement and perhaps a slightly different mindset; proof of growth. None of those things are uncommon for rookie players, but it's certainly interesting that this public fire-lighting is happening now. Unrest seems to be seeping into the fanbase in regards to Dozier's play, at least if Twitter and comment sections around the internet have anything to say about it.
And they do. Naturally.
It's too early to see any results of Gardy's motivational tactic, but since that announcement Dozier has worked four walks. Of course he's also been just 2-for-10 at the plate, but with the free passes his on-base percentage for the series in Cleveland was .429.
Is that a sign of Dozier's redoubled efforts to up his game? Is it just a coincidence that those four walks match his walk totals between July 2 and August 5? Or maybe it's a combination of both?
Impossible to answer now, but over the next few days we're going to get a very good idea of how strongly Dozier's chords have been struck by Gardy. His play hasn't been great but there have been flashes of talent, and that's something that's been under appreciated at the shortstop position from the front office in the last few years. I like Dozier. So I'd like to see him break that cycle.
He needs the chance to prove he can do it and to show that he can be the next long-term shorstop for this team. It just sounds like he'll have to earn those chances, too.