Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago White Sox

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The regular season is winding to a close, and the schedule makers’ gift to the  Cleveland Indians continues to give with a two game set against the woeful Chicago White Sox. Much has been said about the Sox offensive offense and with the influx of farm hands it’s only gotten worse.

There’s nothing more to uncover from this Chicago team, all around the diamond they’re either past their prime or just getting their feet wet. Paul Konerko, longtime face of the team and local hero, is likely gone after the season, Chris Sale is the only scary pitcher they have and other than Alejandro De Aza, the outfield is questionable. I’m continually intrigued by Avisail Garcia, he’s hit .308/.338/.438 since coming to the South Side and though his BABIP is .389 in Chicago, he certainly looks the part. And that’s what’s most important. Gordon Beckham plays great defense and hits decently, but with no power and he loves to swing and miss. It’s a perfect storm of no offense.

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Then there’s Adam Dunn. The big Texan (currently lives in The Woodlands, Texas, which I’m pretty sure isn’t a town, just the woods) is coming to the end of the third of a four-year deal he signed with Chicago that’s seen a .196/.317/.402 slash line and 84 homers in 418 games. No matter how you slice it, that’s bad payback for $41 million thus far, and he’s got another year on the deal. He laid some surprise on the baseball world earlier this month though, suggesting he might retire from the game at the end of the season. He’s been booed in his own park, hated on by hometown radio and print guys and probably had his grave dug somewhere out in Joliet by some angry “legitimate businessman”  Sox fan. It’s understandable, he’s been dreadful for the team and it’s led to a tough time for the big man. All the same, if he does retire, I’m going to miss him, and not because he’s a black hole in the middle of a rival’s lineup.

If you’re an avid reader of the site, you might remember my adoring screed on Mark Reynolds’ swing. It’s a thing of savage beauty even when it doesn’t work. Mark’s explosion in April and May kickstarted the Indians season and even if he’s gone I’m thankful he was here. But truth be told, much of my love for the guy was because he was a poor man’s Adam Dunn. I’m a big fan of big bombs, and Dunn did it like no other. I would have loved him on the Indians and considering how bad they were for the first half of his contract with the Sox, Dunn is the kind of hitter that would have been brilliant. He’s just so good on bad teams.

Statistically, the signing made rare sense for the White Sox. Kenny Williams isn’t much of a fan of sabermetrics and his signing of Adam wasn’t based on that, but the King of True Outcomes was a darling for the stat head. I just loved the homers and the likely training regimen of beer and hotdogs. He’s beloved by all, unless you’re a Sox fan. It’s tough losing someone like that.

Is Dunn the greatest of the TTT Hitters? Possibly, though if you wanted you could look to Jim Thome. But Jim actually got normal hits from time to time, and his career .276 batting average is higher than Dunn’s single season high. Dunn just swings hard though, every time out there. There’s something to be said for not getting cheated on your swings, and plainly the Donkey heard that being said and resolved to never let it happen. Perhaps a swing cheated his father once, leading to the elder Dunn’s downfall, and Adam’s whole career has been a revenge story. You could almost call him baseball’s Indigo Montoya.

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He’s a bit of a paradox – at the same time baseball is valuing multi-talented players (read: defensively able) more than ever before with the introduction of wildly advanced ways of understanding how the ball moves about the diamond, players like Dunn are maintaining prominence. It’s the reason Mark Reynolds or Carlos Pena or Chris Carter are tolerated. Batting average is a second tier stat now, and the strikeout isn’t as damaging as once believed. Dunn’s “defense” was why Japan beat the US in the World Baseball Classic in 2009, they just hit it his way as much as possible and he was a mess in the outfield. But just because he’s a condominium out there at first, as Howie Rose of the New York Mets radio broadcast called him, doesn’t mean he hasn’t had value. Shoot, he’s as valuable offensively as Michael Young or Placido Polanco, and those guys hit .300! More than anything he adds the wow factor, you pause when he’s up to bat because there’s a decent chance the ball will travel far, even if it’s a 700 foot pop-up to second.

It’s not to say there won’t be another one like him, because Adam is amazing but not that unique. The stretch of 40 home run seasons was certainly awesome, and his prowess as a bad team finder is second to none save perhaps Jeff Keppinger. But the visceral pleasure of seeing something like this, or this, or this, you just can’t replicate that. The sound and the fury of Adam Dunn at the plate, whether a crack of the bat or a strong breeze, it’s special, and to me, it’s baseball. Damn I’ll miss him.

Plus he’s just perfect for Hawk Harrelson.

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