There's been a fair amount of hand-wringing--albeit, mostly on sports radio, and I must emphasize that filling 4 hours of airtime is far more difficult than it sounds--about how the White Sox fanbase will react to Adam Dunn's style of play.
This is not without merit.
Before anything, Dunn might have to do a slight bit of winning over his manager, who try as he might doesn't really understand The Big Donkey's approach to the game.
"This guy strikes out 100-plus, walks 100-plus, that's 250
times up without putting the ball in play, and still puts up a lot of
numbers. How they do it, I don't know."
Since the arrival of Ozzie Guillen--who has asserted his
preoccupation with defense, avoiding strikeouts, sacrificing outs to
move runners over, and all the other skills that sustained his own
light-hitting career--the notion of the "grinder" as the ideal player
has hovered over the franchise, and occasionally, been internalized by
Even as plodding sluggers like Paul Konerko,
Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, and Carlos Quentin have sustained the offense,
traits such as high strikeout numbers, baserunning hampered by slowness,
and dependence on power have been somewhat derided, even in the biggest homerdome in the majors.
fear is that Adam Dunn will bring this conflict to a head. While
previous players have tested whether we are capable of thinking of
players whose sole value appears to be vested in walking and hitting the
ball over the fence as real ballplayers, Dunn puts it at the most
extreme level imaginable for a major league player.
much disastrous at anything besides 1st base, his only peer is Mark
Reynolds in terms of strikeout numbers, he can no longer steal bases,
he'll put up a mediocre batting average, and of course has a physical
build that will remind many of beer league softball.
Perhaps that's Dunn's greatest challenge. Despite all the fast-twitch
muscles necessary for jacking a 95mph fastball out to right, his
tremendous girth combined with abject failure at many traditional
measures of the game will lend itself quickly to discontent if he
struggles. Essentially, he's slow and big, can't field, and strikes out
all the time, and I can't imagine he'll go the season without hearing
the term 'fat bum' echo from the stands at least once.
But without going into a lengthy defense of Dunn's merits, as they're
obvious (incalculably enormous upgrade at the position, high walk rate, a
player very well-suited to the ballpark, yada, yada, yada), I'd prefer
to defend his type. In researching about how Dunn will be the most
unpalatable slugger in recent memory for Sox fans, I pretty quickly
discovered that he wasn't, that he's actually a lot like Jim Thome.
Well, obviously Thome was a bit better than Dunn, but still similar. Very, very similar.
He can't field
For reasons we may never know, Dunn was allowed to have nearly 1100
games worth of misadventures playing the outfield before being hidden at
1st base full-time last season, where he was merely not all that good.
But all those years of awfulness perhaps cast a pall on Dunn as a
defender that has avoided Thome, almost undoubtedly because Big Jim put
on a glove and took the field just four times in 3 1/2 seasons as a White Sox. 4! Only 4 games. At least Dunn can spell Paulie at 1st, with Thome, PK could almost be called a workhorse.
He strikes out way too much
Well, yes, striking out in 35.7% of your plate appearances--like
Dunn recorded in 2010, his career-high--is a tremendous amount. One
really needs to make some good contact when they're getting a bat
on the ball so little of the time. But it's not that far off from the
34.0% rate Thome whiffed at in 2009, or even the 31.0% The Gentle Man
recorded in 2007 when he produced more WAR then the entire team. Thome
had a little more boom than Dunn, but just as much bust.
He's only good for home runs
Well, a home run is the most useful thing a batter can do, and U.S.
Cellular was the easiest park in the league to take it out of last
season, so perhaps having a player in the lineup uniquely geared to that
end is a lot better than it sounds. And while Thome and Dunn are both
flyball hitters, both temper it by racking up walks, with career rates
of 17.1% and 16.3% respectively. Dunn's plummeted to a career-low 11.9%
last season, and if that drop continued, then yeah...you'd be allowed
to gripe about him.
Come now, do we remember Thome?
While an offensive lineman in a batting helmet whiffing like mad might
be counter to most of our conceptions of an elite baseball player, if
the Sox fanbase was able to so thoroughly embrace Jim Thome, then a
small place in our hearts should also be open to a slightly shoddier
version of Jim Thome with a paunch and a soul patch.