Alfonso Soriano is wrong—Adam Dunn deserves to be booed
BY MARK POTASH | Afternoon Sports Club June 22, 2011 12:40PM
White Sox fans have every right to be hard on the slumping Adam Dunn. | Tom Cruze/Sun-Times
Updated: June 23, 2011 12:15PM
Cub fans should not be insulted by Alfonso Soriano’s claim that they’re the ‘‘worst’’ when it comes to putting the heat on underproductive players. What he meant is that they’re the most demanding.
And as he explained to the Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmeyer on Tuesday, it’s tough love. ‘‘I understand,’’ he said. ‘‘Fans can get frustrated because they want the team to win, and they want the players to hit.’’
If anybody should be insulted, it’s Sox fans — for Soriano’s unwitting jab that they’re starting to act like Cub fans by booing Adam Dunn less than halfway through his first season in Chicago.
After signing a four-year, $56 million contract with the Sox, Dunn is hitting .175 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs and 91 strikeouts in 264 plate appearances in his first 64 games. And Sox fans are taking it out on him every time he steps to the plate. As Soriano knows as well as anyone, baseball fans’ patience these days is inversely proportionate to how much a player is overpaid.
‘‘It’s very sad for him,’’ Soriano said.
It is sad. Just like it’s sad that batting coaches, who make less than five-percent of Dunn’s salary get fired when guys like Dunn hit .175 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs and 91 strikeouts in the first 64 games. Just like it’s sad that some people spend $10,000 on a pair of season tickets to watch Dunn hit .175 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs and 91 strikeouts in the first 64 games.
But Soriano’s lament brought up a legitimate question: Are Sox fans being too hard on Adam Dunn?
More than any Sox player who has slumped early — Paul Konerko and Joe Crede among them — Dunn seems to be taking the fans’ dissatisfaction personally. It seems like the harder he tries to look like he’s not bothered by it, the more he looks like he is bothered by it. As the boos rain down on him after each strike out, the pressure he’s feeling is palpable.
For the record, Dunn’s slow start is an alarming drop-off from any other season in his 10-year career. It’s not like he’s a habitual slow starter. Over his previous nine full seasons, he is averaging .253 with 17 homers and 40 RBIs through his first 264 plate appearances. He’s never had fewer than 13 homers or 34 RBIs at this point of the season.
But what has to concern Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams is that Dunn is getting worse as the pressure has increased. He hit .216 with four homers and 16 RBIs through May 14. Since then he’s hitting .129 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. In his last three games, he’s 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts and no walks.
It’s near the end of June. This isn’t just an early slump any more. It’s a problem. In 2005, Konerko hit .196 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in Mid-May. He finished at .283, 40 homers and 100 RBIs.
Dunn doesn’t appear even close to snapping out of it. And if it’s as mental as it appears, there’s no way out. It’s only going to get worse — at least until the Sox fall out of contention.
Right now it looks like the only way Adam Dunn’s season can be salvaged is if the rest of the Sox’ lineup starts carrying him — providing enough punch that fans stop looking for Dunn to get the Sox back in contention. It’s kind of how the Red Sox, Yankees and even the Twins do it. If they can give Dunn a chance to breath again, once he gets in a groove he can carry them to the top. He’s that good. We just haven’t seen it since yet.