The budget for remodeling Wrigley Field was announced at $575 million. The changes have been dramatic, although they have not yet included the visitors clubhouse or the press box.
The visitors clubhouse remains a second-floor walk-up that takes you back to the days of “Big Poison” (Paul Waner) and “Little Poison” (Lloyd Waner) — a cramped dump.
There’s a table with a couple of chairs between two pillars in the middle in the room. It was media access time before a Saturday game. The heat index was going to soar to 107 degrees that afternoon in Chicago, and three Twins would leave the game with the Cubs after being overcome.
Brian Dozier was taking a precaution, loading up on potassium with a pregame banana-and-peanut butter sandwich.
“Elvis would be proud of you,” a reporter said.
Dozier nodded and said, “You know where he was from, don’t you?”
Tupelo, Miss. — 24 miles to the west of Dozier’s hometown of Fulton.
Dozier would have fit in perfectly in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Washington. He was in that midsummer contest once, in 2015, batted against reliever Mark Melancon and hit a home run.
Dozier wasn’t in the picture this time, not with a batting average sitting at .217 at the end of June. Agreed, this was too long to wait for Dozier’s traditional hot streak, but the attempts to downgrade him as a player have been overzealous.
One stat used has been a very low batting average in close-and-late batting situations for his career. How about tied-and-early? Those come in handy, too. I’ll take 42 home runs in a season (2016) from a second baseman — 104 in three seasons (2015-17) — and he can hit ’em when he chooses.
James Brian Dozier, small-town Mississippi through and through, turned himself into an excellent underdog story for the Twins. The SEC powers didn’t come after the “Northern Mississippi” player of the year.
He went to Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, and three excellent seasons didn’t get him drafted after his junior season in 2008. Dozier came back as a senior in 2009 and it was worth it: Southern Miss won a regional at Georgia Tech, swept the super regional at Florida, and went to the College World Series.
The Twins drafted him as a shortstop in the eighth round. As a 22-year-old senior, he received the modest sum of $30,000 as a signing bonus.
Nine years later, Dozier is winding down the final weeks of what turned into another exceptional deal for the Twins: He was set to make $595,000 in 2015, and then General Manager Terry Ryan negotiated a four-year deal for $20 million — starting at $2 million, concluding at $9 million.
If you’re naming an all-time Twins team, Rod Carew is the second baseman because of his magical bat. Five of his seven batting titles came as he played second from 1967 to 1975.
Rodney had a knee torn up in 1970 while turning a double play. He was merely OK at second after that, before moving to first base late in the ’75 season.
If you choose to put an emphasis on fielding to go with production, Chuck Knoblauch (1991-97) was the best-ever second baseman for the Twins, and Dozier (2013-18) is second.
Knoblauch won a Gold Glove here in 1997. Dozier won one in 2017. Those are the only Twins second basemen to take that hardware, and the only pair to deserve it.
Dozier brings another tremendous quality: He plays, and does so full-tilt. He never asks out of lineup; he asks in, even when he’s clearly hurting.
He also scores runs … the most underrated ability in baseball. As the stat crowd complained about Dozier leading off, he scored over 100 runs per season from 2014 through 2017.
Now, he is hitting down in the lineup, as well as not really hitting for half the season, and has 60 runs scored in 98 games. But he is also heating up — .298 in July, with five home runs, 17 RBI and 14 runs scored.
Last weekend, he had a hustle double that left Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash offering superlatives. On Sunday, he induced a balk that left the Rays grumbling, and then he came up with the bases loaded and a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the 10th.
Oh, oh … close and late. Dozier was going to pop up for sure.
Not quite. Grand slam. Close and done.
The Twins have gotten a bargain on Dozier from the start in July 2009. Now, a playoff contender is likely to get the same in July 2018 by choosing to acquire a quality second baseman.