Friday, May 26, 2006
Leaving them wanting more
Adam Dunn puts on a show with the longball, but does he aspire to be more than a slugger?
BY PAUL DAUGHERTY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
What do you want from Adam Dunn?
There is a problem with being 6 feet 6, weighing 275 pounds and being a good enough athlete that the University of Texas signed you to play quarterback. It is this:
People are always going to want more.
You hit 40 homers? Great. How many were solo?
You drove in 100 runs? What was your batting average with runners in scoring position?
And by the way: Could you mix in some defense?
Is it fair? Beats me.
If history holds, Dunn will hit at least 40 home runs, drive in 100 runs and score 100 more this season, for the third year in a row. He'll walk at least 100 times. His on-base percentage will be near the 10 best in the National League. He's all of 26 years old.
If that's all there is, OK. As Reds manager Jerry Narron said Wednesday, "That ain't bad."
No, it ain't.
What do you want from Adam Dunn?
It's the $23.5 million question. That's what the Reds would owe Dunn for next season and 2008. That is a lot of money for a pitching-needy, small-revenue club to pay a power hitter.
We've had these discussions for four years, or about as long as Dunn has been a Red. Maybe we should stop. Because for everyone who thinks Dunn has the skills to be a great player, there are as many who think being great isn't what drives him. Often, it's the same people offering both arguments.
Unless you are blessed with supernatural skills, greatness is a mindset. You respect your talent by using all of it. What you lack in skill, you make up for with effort. If being the best drives you, nothing is as important.
Until Narron rested him Wednesday, Dunn was the only Red to play in every game this season. The last several days, he took early batting practice. You never hear a peep from him about switching positions. He doesn't say much when allegedly ill-informed media people crack on his game.
Yet he affects an air of indifference. Dunn has said the worst advice he ever got came from former Reds general manager Jim Bowden, who told him he should pull the ball more. Yet some opponents are shifting all four infielders between first base and second base when the left-handed-hitting Dunn appears at the plate.
He has worked with Reds hitting coach Chris Chambliss, who has urged Dunn to use more of the field and to adjust his plate approach depending on the count he's facing. But when he has fallen behind no balls and two strikes this season, Dunn is 0-for-10 with nine strikeouts.
Yeah, but ...
Dunn leads the Reds in homers. He's tied for the team lead in RBI and second in runs. What more do you want?
If he took pitches to left field ... if he were more aggressive at the plate ... if he put in more time working on his defense ...
I wanted to ask Dunn about all that. He didn't want to talk, at least not to me. Maybe especially not to me. Fair enough. I'm not exactly the president of the Dunner Fan Club. Regardless, the temptation is to suggest Dunn is OK with who he is, and we should be, too.
Dunn is, to most, a genial good ol' boy from a small town 40 miles north of Houston, where everybody knows everybody and where generations of his family have lived. He has that laconic, laid back air familiar to Texans. If the burden of talent and potential bugs him, you'd never know. If ever anyone was born to fish for bass in a pond, it's Adam Dunn.
If Dunn were older, it would be easier to say he was following the career path blazed by Dave Kingman. If he were 36 instead of 26, we all would be urging him to write "designated hitter" on his tax returns. We'd be looking at that size and athleticism and wondering, "Is that all there is?" even as he approaches 500 homers.
But he's only arriving at his best. What he chooses to do with it is anyone's guess.