The Indians head to Chicago again for Memorial Day, already the third time this season they’ve faced the Southsiders. The Tribe packs a +4 run differential, but trail in the season series 3-4. If you don’t know this team by now, you haven’t been paying attention. The good news – Jason Kipnis will be back on Tuesday to destroy his hometown team, and Jose Abreu is still on the DL. That second one isn’t good for baseball, but it does lower the terror level in Cleveland. Otherwise, little has changed. It’s the White Sox. So here’s a list of 10 reasons Adam Dunn is the best player in baseball.
1. The fear of God he places in pitchers. Adam might not hit the ball all the time, but every time he’s at the plate the pitcher knows that any mistake is going to end up 500 feet in the other direction. The pure, raw power he delivers to the baseball not only breaks ties and gives his team the lead with one lightning bolt, it breaks the spirit of the pitcher. Shoot, you could even make a good pitch to Adam and he’d still accidentally hit it a mile. History has shown fear is man’s greatest weapon – to inflict it on your opponent is to win before the battle is even fought.
2. He doesn’t get cheated. If you’re a top player in the game, you are out there doing what you please, not cowtowing to the whims of the guy on the mound or admitting defeat when the defense puts a shift on for you. Adam goes up to the plate and takes his place in the box, waiting for his pitch then swinging at it with unparalleled might and fury. Other, lesser players shorten up on their swings, try to just make contact, go the other way, or whatever other euphemisms for being a total quitter baseball has come up with. Not so Mr. Dunn. His swings are his own, his at-bat his time to hold court, and he’s going to use every minute of time up there to its fullest. It’s an admirable trait in anyone, and just another piece in the mosaic of greatness that is the Donkey.
3. He’s the summation of the everyman-ness of baseball. In basketball, you must be tall and athletic. In football, inhuman strength blended with speed and quickness. Hockey? Forget about it, those guys have to stand on ice in little blades and move backwards sometimes. That’s impossible, I swear. An endearing thing about baseball is it’s almost that anyone of any body type and build could do it. Being a hyperathlete doesn’t always factor in. Go look at a picture of Adam Dunn. Tell me that’s not what you expect to look like at about 45, outside of being the size of a condominium. He looks like he’d be as much at home on a beer league field or a construction site as on a major league diamond. He makes us feel good about our own physiques, while Mike Trout is out there making us feel like schlubs with his 45 inch vert and super speed and strong, cut jawline. Being great isn’t just about the numbers, it’s your impact on society. Dunn makes us all feel like if given the chance, we could do what these men on the field do. Dunn shows us baseball is for everyone, as long as they can swing a bat.
4. He wears the same number as Hank Aaron, and has to hit in a tougher era. Yes, the number 44, gracing the back of history’s greatest power threats. Sure, Hank has a career batting average roughly 70 points higher than Adam, and Bad Henry is the dopest of nicknames, but he also benefitted from playing in a time when people didn’t throw as hard and bullpens were barely in their infancy of usage, matchups weren’t as common. It’s a struggle these days for hitters especially now that amphetamines have been banned from the game. Hank got the full benefit of that. I suppose that mound being about eight feet high made it tough on Aaron though, but the slider as a pitch was also not as prevalent as it is now – Ted Williams noted in the late 50’s that it was something he actually had to look for, it was so tough to hit. With how far the art of pitching has come it’s amazing hitters ever even get the bat on the ball, never mind with the authority that Dunn delivers to his hits.
5. He knows how to steal bases, but recognizes they’re often opposed to Sabermetrics so he doesn’t do it often. I saw him do it in person back in April when the Indians were in Chicago. Dunn is timely with his steals, a lot like Albert Pujols. Smart baserunning is an underrated ability, knowing what the pitcher is doing, what he’s thinking about, what the situation is in the game. Plus, someone with Dunn’s physical gifts, as it were, needs to be as close to home to score on a non-homer. He’s stolen 63 bases in 87 attempts in his career, and is 4-for-7 since 2011. Sure you could call him slow, since he is. You could call him a base path clog, a drag on the offense, whatever. This all plays into his hand, because suddenly, when you least expect it, the earth shakes and rumbles and he ends up on second and you’re incredulous. Then gets to third on a single to right. You can’t have everything.
6. He hit a ball into another state. Pretty sure he’s the only person to ever do this, and remarkable feats are part of greatness. You have to forge your place in baseball lore like Mays’ catch or Mantle hitting one off the facade at old Yankee Stadium or Ted homering in his final at-bat. When he was still in Cincinnati Dunn hit a ball so hard it left the park and landed in the Ohio River. The way state lines are drawn, it landed in Kentucky, since the border extends across the river to the average height of the river on the north shore. Oddly, there are times when parts of Ohio are parts of Kentucky. At any rate, it’s a boss piece of trivia but also evidence of titanic power this man produces.
7. He has an excellent command of his own strike zone. This one isn’t even a joke, or hyperbole or anything like that. He sees a ton of pitches. He walks all the time, and seems to only strike out on pitches in the zone he doesn’t get right. Say what you will about his contact rates (they’re really low) but if someone averages 109 walks per season despite striking out 192 times, he knows what’s going on. It’s a surprisingly rare ability to have. When he does strike out looking, he knows it, Adam rarely argues with the ump. Part of that is surely to keep the official in a good mood, because I would be terrified and therefore angry (according to Jedi lore fear leads to anger) and calls would only become tougher. As advanced stats have proven, a walk is as good as a single, and Dunn gets them in spades.
8. He, uh, knows how to conserve his energy. So back in 2009 when Dunn was a free agent, Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said this about Dunn:
“Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much? Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much? How much do you know about the player? There’s a reason why you’re attracted to some players and there’s a reason why you’re not attracted to some players. I don’t think you’d be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here.”
He later recanted his statement because as we know, Dunn is all that is baseball. But that’s not the only time his so-called “hustle” has been called into question. Reds announcer Marty Brennaman said a few times he didn’t like that Dunn walks it in from the field, came into the season overweight, didn’t have any energy. You know what’s a waste of energy? Rushing in from the field. His time is better spent mashing homers and outthinking the pitcher. Dunn has no need for this mythical idea of hustle being the end all, be all. He’s got bombs to launch.
9. Hmm…. He’s a movie star? People knew that, right? Dunn went to the Oscars, he’s a superstar in every sense of the word. The way he delivered that beer to Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club then tossed the bar towel over his shoulder was inspired. He’s a natural, I can’t wait to see him in another movie. Maybe it’s something I get from watching too much NBA, but superstars, besides being great on the field, have to transcend sport and be part of the culture. Between acting in the movie and investing in it, Dunn has partial claim to an Oscar. Does Miguel Cabrera have that? No. Case closed.
10. Someone was able to put together a list of ten reasons he’s the greatest of all time. This alone is enough for me. If someone out there can find more than, say, seven reasons why someone is the best at what they do, that sounds legitimate. Ten reasons though? That’s wild, that’s amazing, it makes it canon. Along with everything else I listed, the fact that he’s got the fans out there that believe in his greatness so much so as to list it all out, he’s got to be up there in the pantheon of baseball if not at the top.
So there you have it, ten reasons why Adam Dunn is the best in the game right now. You could probably find some silly reasons why he isn’t, like his miserable defense or his dreadful 2011 that was the worst offensive season by anyone ever in the history of baseball, but even that year proves my point. He was tired of being great, he wanted to show people what they were taking for granted. Kind of like when Wilt Chamberlain decided to set a record for assists and eschewed scoring. Dunn is so good, he can be as bad as he wants to be.
It’s going to be a great series.