Hi, my name is Steve and I’m a Hunter Dozier fan.
Hunter Dozier is my favorite Royal. In many ways, it’s true. He’s not necessarily my favorite Royal to watch, and I have more history with guys like Salvador Perez and Zack Greinke. But I am more emotionally attached to Dozier than any other player on the team. He’s the first player I look for in the box score; he’s the at-bat I stop for every time when I am skimming through a game on MLB.tv. When the Royals lose, but Dozier does something good (like when he hit the home run in the blowout loss last week), it takes some edge off the loss. When the Royals have a great game but Dozier doesn’t contribute (like the blowout win two days later), it deflates the win just a bit.
I think many Royals fans would have questions for anyone who remains a Hunter Dozier fan. So I’m going to attempt to answer some that come to mind.
“How did you come to be a Hunter Dozier fan?”
So how does this happen? It seems most fans have never liked him much from the beginning, and now he’s fully taken the mantle that he previously shared with Ryan O’Hearn as the team’s most reviled player. Even in a Royals win where Dozier doesn’t play, social media and this website will have several comments about him and how worthless he is. So am I just being contrarian? Obtuse? Stupid? Masochistic?
It really comes down to two things: the timing of his arrival and (I know this is random) Morgan Ensberg.
Ensberg was the third baseman for the Astros in the mid-2000s. The winter before his breakout 2005 season, I was the point-person for bringing him to our church to speak at a men’s event. He drove an hour outside of town in his own vehicle (for free) and met us at our small-town church. He hung out with me in my office for a while, talking to me about the 2004 NLCS, and then was as gracious, funny, and effective guest speaker you could imagine—mingling with the young boys, signing autographs, posing for pictures, lingering to answer questions.
When Hunter Dozier emerged on the scene—another large, athletic, power-hitting third baseman who happened to be a believer—I think I just connected him to Ensberg, one of my all-time favorites. Dozier has not really shown himself to be as big a personality as Ensberg, but I enjoyed seeing videos the Royals have posted with him at home with his son, and he is always game for the little funny videos the Royals marketing tries to do from time to time. The young players seem to like him; calling him the “dad” of the young clubhouse.
I’ve rooted for him from the beginning. Dozier was drafted in 2013, when the Royals were first making their push into contention, out of Stephen F. Austin, where my sister also went to college (another connection). It seemed like no one expected much of him, as he was seemingly only drafted to save money to sign Sean Manaea. I was looking for him to prove the doubters wrong.
He struggled in 2014 and ‘15, before breaking out in 2016. Mike Moustakas was out for the year, and Cheslor Cuthbert and Paulo Orlando, after playing very well most of the season, were mired in severe late-season slumps. Many of us hoped to see Dozier come in and provide a spark down the stretch at third base or right field, but he didn’t really get the chance. After an injury-plagued 2017, Dozier finally got a chance for extended playing time in 2018 and struggled.
But in 2019, he caught fire. Another thing that Dozier has in common with Ensberg is that they both were pretty streaky. There were a couple of different stretches in Ensberg’s career where he hit like an MVP, and Dozier put together a couple of months like that in 2019, making the fan-elected run-off All-Star ballot that year.
In a time when Alex Gordon (the last player I got so emotionally attached to) was winding down his career, I was sort of looking for my next favorite Royals, and I was drawn to Hunter Dozier (and, to a lesser extent, Brad Keller, an underdog story who sort of physically resembles Kevin Appier).
“Do you think Hunter Dozier is actually good?”
I can’t help but hold out hope for his bat, and I find myself skeptical of the defensive metrics that say no matter how well he hits, it’s nearly completely negated by his defense. It’s hard for me to truly believe he’s worse than “replacement” on his career, because I’ve become all too familiar what “replacement” looks like, filling out the Royals’ roster over the past few years.
Still, I am not blind to his shortcomings. I find myself frustrated when he chases yet another slider outside the zone or is just late enough on the high fastball to pop it up instead of drive it, almost like he were my son or brother—not because I hate him but because I want him to succeed so badly.
“Do you still want him to play every day for the Royals?”
This is a complicated answer. Because I root for Dozier as a person, I would love to see him succeed, but it pains me watching him fail and receive all this hate. So I want to see him utilized in a way that gives him the best chance to succeed.
I was frustrated to see them put him back at third base, when it seems like he has proven he can’t really do it. I hate to see him in the lineup against a righty with good breaking stuff. I’d rather him first find success as a role-player, crushing lefties while filling in various ways, possibly earning his way back to more playing time.
If he’s going to turn things around, I would love to see him play more and more. Other than a playoff push, nothing would make this Royals season more enjoyable to me than to see Dozier have a great year. But if that’s never going to happen and he’s going to continue to languish below .200 and not hit the ball hard, I’d rather him be released than continue to see him fail and see the fans pile on. It really wears on me, not just on the field but also that I just feel sad for him.
“Why don’t you just give up on him and root for someone else?”
I do root for other people. I think Vinnie Pasquantino might be headed in the same direction as a personal favorite, like Darrell Porter, George Brett, Willie Wilson, Jeff Bagwell, Morgan Ensberg, Lance Berkman, Alex Gordon, and Lorenzo Cain before that. But I stick with Dozier, because I really can’t do otherwise. I can’t help it.
Why do we love the players we love? I guess it’s a similar question to why we care at all. We don’t know these guys personally. We just form connections with them for various reasons, and it either sticks or it doesn’t. Maybe some of us just like the players that help the team the most. I guess that makes the most sense. But it’s never been that way for me, and I can’t help but be loyal, even when I don’t quite believe anymore.
So you’re still my guy, Hunter Dozier. Now go hit the ball hard.