Adam Dunn And The Essence Of Spring

Tempe, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn bats in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels during a spring training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

You can go ahead and believe that Adam Dunn is going to bounce back in a big way. Nobody's going to hold it against you.

There are a lot of things that I don't understand. I don't understand how the human brain captures and stores memories. I don't understand the Large Hadron Collider. I don't understand how we ever stop reminding one another that his name is pronounced "Poo holes". And I don't understand what happened to Adam Dunn in 2011.

Here's what we know about Adam Dunn:

  • he was a really good hitter for a really long time
  • he signed a four-year contract with the White Sox
  • he became a bad hitter

Adam Dunn fell on his face at the age of 31. But that doesn't quite capture it. When Adam Dunn was 29, he was as good a hitter as Mark Teixeira. When Adam Dunn was 30, he was as good a hitter as Ryan Braun. When Adam Dunn was 31, he was as good a hitter as Ronny Cedeno. Actually, that isn't fair to Ronny Cedeno. Adam Dunn was worse.

Look at these numbers. Just look at them.

.159
.292
.277

Two of those numbers would be acceptable batting averages. Neither of them were Dunn's batting average. I'm not going to tell you what those numbers are, because you already know. You can identify them, even if it's next to impossible to truly wrap your mind around them.

Adam Dunn was a disaster. Apparently there was a sense he was going to be a disaster:

Sitting in his Scottsdale, Ariz., office on the first day of spring training, Guillen was approached by then-hitting coach Greg Walker, who had just watched a batting practice session with Dunn, Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin and A.J. Pierzynski.

"He says 'We have a problem,' " Guillen said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I say 'What? Spring training is only a couple of days [old].' He says 'You've got to come out and see Adam Dunn's swing.'

Whether or not you believe that, Dunn was a mess. In the first year of his four-year contract, Dunn posted a .597 OPS in the first half, and then a worse OPS in the second half. He never showed any convincing signs of breaking out. The White Sox, and their fans, were left to wonder what to do with this apparent pile of crap.

Skip ahead. It's March 2012. Spring training is a time for fans to look for signs of encouragement from anyone and everyone. Spring training is a time for fans to be the most optimistic they might ever be. Adam Dunn came into camp having made adjustments. You'd hope so; you can't have the season he just had without subsequently making adjustments. He swung a bat over the offseason, which he didn't used to do. He tweaked his swing. Dunn gave White Sox fans some reason to hope.

And now, on Thursday, he's given them more:

A home run off a guy who doesn't allow a lot of home runs. A line-drive double off a lefty, a year after going 6-for-94 with one extra-base hit against lefties. Adam Dunn hit for a ton of power before. Adam Dunn didn't hit for power at all in 2011. Might the Adam Dunn of old return in 2012, and begin earning his contract?

The proper course of action if you're not a White Sox fan is to wait to pass judgment until you've seen a lot more. It's March 8. Lots of time to go. Adam Dunn can't just erase what he did last season that quickly. What Adam Dunn did last season can't be erased.

The proper course of action if you are a White Sox fan, though, is to get excited. Why not? That's what this whole month is for, and no matter how early it is, Adam Dunn hit an impressive double and an impressive homer, and that's encouraging. Dunn didn't really do anything encouraging in 2011, but he's off to a promising start. Look at his track record! He's going to bounce back, right? He's got to bounce back.

We don't know what to make of Adam Dunn, and we won't for a while, but White Sox fans should absolutely be feeling pretty positive. Spring training is a time for fans to grab every oyster and believe there's a pearl. Adam Dunn is presently shedding some oysters. You never know. You just never know.

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