We are a week and a half away from August, over 60 percent of the way through baseball season, and Adam Dunn has yet to figure it out. What began as a slow start soon became trouble adjusting to the American League in what added up to the worst first half in baseball for the White Sox's prized free agent possession. In between, there was trips to a psychologist, intermediate benchings, and a whole slew of people weighing in on what could possibly transform one of baseball's elite power hitters to a man who seems dead-set on putting the finishing touches on the worst season for a hitter in the live ball era. What we are left with now is reality: Adam Dunn isn't the solution for a punch-less offense, he's the reason for it. No more excuses, no more psychoanalyzing. Dunn is bad -- historically bad -- and it's a fact of life the White Sox will have to learn to deal with as much as work to combat.
It can't be overstated how good Dunn was, how far he's fallen. For all of his pre-existing warts, perhaps even because of them, Dunn became a poster child for an enlightened generation of fans armed with a new way to gauge success. "Moneyball" taught affluent fans that steals were over-valued, getting on-base meant everything, and that extra-base power is the engine that made any offense go. Dunn could never run and forever etched his name among baseball's biggest strikeout artists, but it didn't matter. His walk rate was nearly unmatched, and the number of home runs he compiled made him look like a lock to join the 500 club. In the same way a player like Juan Pierre would have been more highly thought of had he played in the 70s, Dunn's reputation was helped immensely by Michael Lewis' book and the cutting-edge work of the good people at Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs. It's why when he signed with Chicago for four years and $56 million, no one thought it was money poorly spent. Adam Dunn would come to Chicago and hit, because Adam Dunn always hits.
And then this season happened. Dunn looks like one of the NBA superstars who got sapped of their powers by the martians in "Space Jam". He can't hit a fastball. He can't hit against lefties. He can't hit at home. Which is all a long-winded way of saying the obvious: Adam Dunn can't get hits, to the point where he's set have the lowest batting average in 75 years by a good 20 points.
Inevitably, it's started to take a toll on Dunn's psyche. And according to what he told Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan yesterday, he could be thinking about retirement at age 31.
"If I’m not having fun anymore, I’ll go home," Dunn told Yahoo! Sports. "Flat out. I’ll go home. I mean that. Swear to goodness. I’ll. Go. Home. I enjoy playing. Even though I suck. Or have been sucking. I enjoy playing the game. Love it. But as soon as I lose that, I’m gone, dude. It’s true.
Sounds like a man who means business, until you read 150 words further down in the story.
"It’s not going to happen," he says. "Zero chance. Zero. You can’t get this competition anywhere else, dude. I don’t care where you look. Nowhere else. It’s one-on-one, dude. And you can’t find that anywhere. …
Adam Dunn is a f***ing walking paradox.
Let's discuss that first quote for a minute, the one in which Dunn threatens to retire. "Quitting" likely doesn't play well in any city, and it certainly won't in this one. I can only imagine what the talk show callers are saying right now, but I don't hate myself enough to listen. Here's a guess: there's nothing 'Chicago Tough' about giving up and giving in. It's a loser's way out, and the antithesis of the 'warrior's mentality' we expect out of our athletes. But is it really such a bad thing? It's reached the point that Dunn feels *guilty* about making $14 million a year. This is his own personal hell. Torture. No matter how he tries to spin it, talking about an 'epic' last two months, the above quotes reek of a desperate man. And if he walks away? The White Sox are off the hook for the final three years of that contact. Say, Adam, can you drag Jake Peavy and Alex Rios down with you?
Dunn won't walk away. Human beings don't leave $42 million on the table no matter how much they hate their job. But if there was ever a man as rich as Dunn who deserved some sympathy from common folk like you and I, it is him. He sucks not for a lack of effort or preparation or care. He sucks because he does. It's a truth that Dunn and the White Sox might have to become comfortable with for a long time.