Dunn a leader for Reds his own way
Slugger has taken young players under his wing in clubhouse
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- One way or another, Adam Dunn is a team leader for the Reds.
However, Dunn won't shout from the hilltops like William Wallace in "Braveheart." Nor would the left fielder make like his celebrity look alike, Will Ferrell, by donning a male cheerleader costume to bark out perky chants, a la Saturday Night Live.
Dunn is the Reds' leading earner this season with a $13 million salary. With the team since 2001, he has the second-longest tenure behind Ken Griffey Jr. If nothing else, his 6-foot-6, 275-pound frame makes him Cincinnati's largest player. All are built-in reasons that seem to signify him as a team leader.
No problem, says Dunn, but he will do it in his own style -- not how people perceive he should lead.
"That word gets thrown around a bunch," Dunn said of leadership. "We have leaders on this team. Just because we're not 'rah-rah, hey look at me on the top step' in the game, I think sometimes people think that's the leaders people should be. We don't have those guys.
"Since I got here in 2001, it's happened," he added. "I'm not trying to be cocky or conceited, that's something since I was 10 years old that's happened. It's a role that I'm used to. Just because I don't do it like some people would do it or want me to do it, I can't help that."
Dunn and Griffey were among Reds veterans personally requested by new manager Dusty Baker to be models of leadership on the field, whether it was during Spring Training drills or hustling on every play.
But that mantle extended into the clubhouse also, and that's where Dunn has subtly stepped up, especially for younger Reds players.
When 20-year-old top prospect Jay Bruce was in camp, Dunn was quick to take the outfielder -- and fellow Texan --under his wing. It was Dunn who organized a first-time karaoke competition among the rookies. All of the kids had to perform -- whether it was pitcher Johnny Cueto singing "Born in the USA," or Bruce when he had to belt out "Copa Cabana."
Will a team that laughs together win together? That remains to be seen, but the gesture was done to boost team chemistry.
"That was the main goal," Dunn said. "To make sure we get everybody together and have people that you don't really know -- to get to know them."
The one place Dunn has more traditionally led the Reds is through his offensive production. He's led the team in home runs in each of the past six seasons. And he's a fixture on the field with 152 or more games played the last four seasons. He played 160 or more games from 2004-06.
Despite Dunn's repeated 40 home run seasons, he rarely seems to please all fans all the time. They criticize Dunn's strikeout rate and his lack of prowess in the field is always a target for jabs.
Guess what? Dunn isn't always pleased with what he does on the field either. Although he shows a laid-back or easy-going demeanor on the outside, the 28-year-old remains his own biggest critic.
While Dunn loathes the word "potential," he continually aims to reach his and is vigilant about improving.
"I'm still not where I want to be. It'll happen, I assure you," Dunn said. "I know what I want. I'm not going to sit here and throw out numbers. I know in my head exactly what I'm capable of doing and what I want to do. And I haven't come close yet."
This could be Dunn's final season to reach that potential while in Cincinnati. While his 2008 option was picked up -- partly due to owner/CEO Bob Castellini's urging -- no talks have opened yet about a contract extension.
As an opposing manager in the past and the Reds skipper in the current, Baker has long been a fan of Dunn's.
"I bet you he gets better," Baker said. "He's from Texas. There's not a cow in Texas if he doesn't get better."
As it is, Dunn's statistics have been nothing to sneeze at. Last season, he hit .264 with 40 homers, 106 RBIs, 101 runs scored and 101 walks. It was his fourth straight 40-homer season. It was also the third time in four seasons that he produced at least 100 runs, 100 RBIs and 100 walks. Only Boston's David Ortiz has achieved the feat.
In the strikeout department, Dunn went from a Major League-leading 194 in 2006 to 165 in 2007. Still, he wasn't satisfied.
"Because I know I'm capable of doing more," Dunn said. "One area might have gotten better but other stuff stayed the same. It'll come together one day."
Like the leadership area, if it does come together, it'll happen his way.