Only way out for Sox’ Adam Dunn: Staying in
RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org June 28, 2011 8:12PM
Adam Dunn’s slump has been wrongly pinned on his weight, eyesight and appendix, among other things. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: October 4, 2011 12:35AM
Three months is a blip if the time period under consideration is eternity or a long life or a lengthy career.
Three months is not a blip in a six-month baseball season.
What’s happening to Adam Dunn is sad, frustrating and hard to watch. Maybe it will be considered a ‘‘little blip’’ years from now, as White Sox general manager Ken Williams suggested the other day in the Tribune. But it can’t begin to be considered that until Dunn, who got the night off Tuesday at Colorado, comes out of his slump from hell.
Right now, it’s a catastrophe. And the only way for him to make it less a catastrophe is by continuing to walk up to the plate.
There’s a segment of Sox fans, identifiable by the pitchforks and torches, that wants Dunn on the bench. The thought of maintaining the status quo infuriates them.
The Sox’ answer to the problem might be maddening, and it might go against everything we hold dear in this immediate, results-driven world, but it’s the right one: Dunn has to stay in the lineup.
I know: He can’t hit left-handed pitching. He’s on pace to break the single-season strikeout record. His batting average is .173 and every bit as bad as that number suggests. He is lost at the plate.
But you don’t give someone a four-year, $56 million contract and then bench him three months into the season. He can’t get out of his slump unless he gets at-bats.
He has to work himself out of this. He and the Sox keep saying that when he does, look out, duck, seek shelter immediately. If you have a compassionate bone in your body, you’re hoping the show will be spectacular. But right now, you’d settle for mediocre.
In the meantime, let’s clear up some misconceptions, misinformation, silliness and downright dumb notions:
†The White Sox should send Dunn to the minors to find his hitting stroke.
Not going to happen. It’s not how manager Ozzie Guillen or most managers deal with veterans. Dunn has done too much in the game to not deserve a chance to get out of this in the big leagues. And how does a ‘‘rehab’’ assignment with guidance from a minor-league instructor help?
† Hitting coach Greg Walker isn’t working hard enough with Dunn.
Um, yes, he is. The perception that Dunn is adrift by himself is inaccurate. So is the perception that he’s stubborn and has made no changes to his approach at the plate. He’s probably getting more advice than he could ever want.
† He has gotten so fat he could win a 4-H livestock competition.
He might be fleshy, but there’s no proof he’s any fleshier than he has been in the past. No one was complaining about his weight when he was putting up 40 home runs and 100 RBI a year.
† His eyesight has gotten worse.
Nope. Same guy, same eyesight. His problem appears to be one of confidence, not ophthalmology.
† He never fully recovered from the emergency appendectomy he underwent in the first week of the season.
Oh, so now you’re a doctor? Dunn came back from his appendectomy six days after surgery. Maybe he rushed his return, and maybe he struggled for a while because of it. Nobody knows. But it’s pretty hard to pin three months of struggles on one uncooperative appendix.
If there’s one legitimate explanation for Dunn’s shocking spiral, it would be his transition from National League two-way player to American League designated hitter. Before he came to Chicago, he had never been a DH. There’s an undeniable rhythm to being both a fielder and a hitter. If you play a position, it’s easier to stay loose, and it’s easier to stay mentally involved in the game.
A DH has to concoct ways to remain plugged in. Some DHs ride stationary bikes to keep their blood pumping. But it’s hard to feel completely part of things sitting in the dugout for most of the game.
The boos at the Cell aren’t helping. I would never tell anyone to stop booing. It’s like trying to tell someone why he should love a piece of art.
I would ask this, though: What are the boos accomplishing?
If you think they’re going to make Guillen bench Dunn, you have completely misread the manager.
If you think they’re going to spur him to hit better, well, how’s that working out so far?
If you simply want him to know how frustrated you are, he has gotten the hint. But if you agree with me that he’s not going anywhere, including to the bench, then the boos are counterproductive. That’s if you’re interested in his slump ending and if you’re interested in the Sox winning.
Williams wants to take the long view of Dunn’s troubles, and you can’t blame him. The up-close view is hideous.
But it doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. Faith and three or four at-bats a game can change everything. What else is there?