FanSided Q&A: Brian Dozier on mentors, analytics and moving to managing

Brian Dozier has only been out of MLB baseball for one season but he’s already looking for a way back in. 

Brian Dozier, 34, was teammates with Chase Utley and Jim Thome. He was managed by Ron Gardenhire, Paul Molitor, Dave Roberts and Davey Martinez. He spent nine seasons in baseball, hitting .244/.325/.441 with 192 home runs and 561 RBI, and emerged as a clubhouse leader and a player that others gravitated to in the dugout and on the field.

And now, Brian Dozier wants to manage.

He retired after the 2020 season, saying that the COVID season took a toll on him and his body. Dozier wants to get back into baseball and follow in the footsteps of David Ross and Aaron Boone, who were hired as managers following their playing careers. He realizes that opportunity might not come right away, but wants to pass along the knowledge he has picked up from his experiences and his mentors.

Brian Dozier spoke with FanSided about his interest in managing at the MLB level and what comes next

What about managing appeals to you?

A lot of different things. Primarily, I’m still young. Through COVID and my last year of playing, I didn’t get my body ready every day. It didn’t go that well and I ended up retiring. Even though I don’t want to play anymore, I feel as if I have a lot more to give in the sense of managing. For me, I’ve always taken a lot of pride in being a leader on and off the field and learning from managers that I’ve had on things to do and not to do. I’ve always had a desire to manage.

What were some of those things that you learned to do/not to do?

Over the years, I was on the worst team in baseball and part of a couple of World Series. A lot of different things, both in American League and National League, especially nowadays in how you have to manage different personalities in the clubhouse, how to manage a bullpen, those are some of the things I’ve taken away that are good and not so good. The communication aspect of everything and still being relatively young, being able to relate and not being far removed from the game, I can relate to a lot of the players. Then collaborating on analytics to the point where you can do both. Both are very important. There are just a lot of different things that I have seen in my career that I love and that I’d love to share with some people.

Who were some of the people who influenced you?

I’ve had phenomenal managers throughout my career — and a lot of different ones. Ron Gardenhire, my first one. Him and I are still so close. An old school guy who just got it done. A grinder, one of the better communicators in the league. Paul Molitor, seeing his knowledge and seeing his day-to-day work on how to be a good manager. He didn’t miss a pitch and would see pitchers tipping pitches. Going to Los Angeles with Dave Roberts, seeing the whole Dodger Way in how they go about each and every game, putting a lineup together, using analytics, how they construct their lineup and make their moves and how they go about everything. In 2019, with Dave Martinez, it was a lot of the same thing. How to manage the game, using analytics to put out different lineups, matchups, how to manage personalities. He was another great communicator with the veterans and also the young guys. Throughout my career, I’ve seen a lot of stuff that works and what doesn’t work and I’ve always had the desire to manage. I feel like it’s time to do that.

From your perspective, what makes the Dodgers different from most teams?

They’re a phenomenal organization from top to bottom. Andrew Friedman, he’s an exceptional mind when it comes to baseball and analytics. Dave Roberts as well. They just do it a little bit differently. It’s how they go about each day with their lineups. Some days I would hit leadoff, other times I would hit seventh, fourth. Going into a series, you have to know the matchups and everything a team will throw at you and you need to have answers for it. They did a very good job of, ‘Nothing came as a surprise.’ The opposing team would try to do something and they were prepared for everything. You have to have that. They’re great at doing that.

It sounds like you picked their brains quite a bit then.

Absolutely. It’s not just the Dodgers, but every team. I got a chance to play with a lot of awesome people from the Jim Thome’s to the Chase Utley’s that have been around and have seen toward the end of their careers analytics starting getting bigger and how to utilize them. It’s collaborating the personalities, analytics, GMs to managers to have one successful team. You never stop learning.

You’re likely not going to be in managerial consideration this year, but how do you envision that path? 

There have been so many different paths to being a manager. Some people like David Ross and Aaron Boone who had never managed have gone straight to being a manager. I love the idea of still being young, still being not far removed from playing. I played before the analytics and played with the analytics. I’ve seen so many different things. I haven’t talked to a team this year. I hope to because that is my goal. I don’t think you can rule anything out. I haven’t thought about what that path may be. In my mind, straight to being a manager, but I’m open to anything.

You said you hadn’t talked to any teams, but it’s my understanding you’ve gotten positive feedback from teams.

I haven’t talked to any teams, but it’s people talking in the front office about it. There aren’t many people who realized that I wanted to pursue managing. I think this conversation will bring that to light. I just want people to know that I’m serious about pursuing it.

You’ve talked about it a bit before, but in what ways do you think playing would help you as a manager?

Players talk. Every single year, players talk about certain moves, communication. If someone isn’t feeling good that day and still getting thrown out there, their arm is barking. They don’t tell the manager that they may need a couple days off. Managing the bullpen, getting guys up when they need to be up and when they need to rest. It’s just a lot of different conversations that happen through the clubhouse that if you don’t have the communication, that’s the No. 1 key. As a player, having not played long ago, I feel with a lot of the young players coming in that they need some type of communication that I experienced with veteran managers. It’s one of the best traits a manager can have.

Communication is really important to you, isn’t it?

100 percent. In anything you do, as a player or manager or bench coach, you always want to be prepared. As players, we always want to be prepared. We never want to have something come in a situation that we haven’t talked about. A lot of times, that gets lost. That’s the biggest trait as a manager. It’s how you get to learn your players, especially in today’s age with different personalities, old guys, young guys, obviously the personalities of young players. You have to manage all of them over the course of a full year. I’ve lived it.

Do you embrace analytics?

I love analytics. When it first started to evolve at the beginning of my career, there’s pushback from everyone. At the same time, I think it’s huge. There’s teams that can be too analytic. There’s teams that aren’t enough. The good ones mesh the two together. They talk in all the information that will allow you to be prepared with matchups and also still have a feel for the actual game of baseball. There’s a lot of intangibles in the game of baseball, so how to mesh those two together is huge. You have to be able to do that. As far as actual analytics, I’m a big fan. I believe you have to have it and if you don’t embrace it, you get lost in the league.

How do you find that right balance with analytics?

For me, I played for a couple teams that are very analytic driven. Take the Dodgers for instance. The amount of information Dave and Andrew, all the guys have in the front office, crunching numbers and matchups and then presenting it to us as players. Sometimes it can be really good. There’s just so much data and deciphering what can be helpful. For me, the more information I can have that I can do my job, the better.

This can apply to analytics, but how do you think managing has changed from when you first started playing to when you finished playing?

Early on, before analytics came about, a lot of people were set in their ways. If you’re a leadoff hitter, take the first pitch and run up the count. That kind of stuff. That’s just the way it was. Now, it doesn’t have to be just a single hitters guy who has a decent OBP. It’s having the data and how we can produce more runs. Maybe that’s the leadoff spot or somewhere else. It’s changed over the years for the better. The biggest thing that gets lost is meshing those things and collaborating and having a feel for the game and still having a feel for the new age of baseball with analytics. That’s the biggest thing. You can’t lose the feel of the game while continuing to have all this information with analytics.

When you talk about the feel of the game, are you talking about inside the clubhouse? I know some people feel analytics has taken some of the human element out of the game. 

That’s what I’m talking about. It’s the human element, the things you can’t put on a sheet of paper. That’s so important. … I took this year off and wanted to pursue managing. It’s always been my passion.

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