3/12/2014 4:54 P.M. ET
Dunn accepts reality without true explanation
Slugger befuddled by unmet expectations since joining White Sox
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Adam Dunn has come to a realization.
His offensive game has become one-dimensional, power-based as he enters the 2014 campaign. The always frank Dunn doesn't totally understand how he arrived at this point, and won't try to cop to anything more.
"No, I don't, I'm going to be honest," the 34-year-old Dunn told MLB.com when asked if he sees himself as more than a power hitter. "I used to, and I don't know what I've transformed into. I don't know what this guy that I've been the last five or six years, I don't know where it came from, but it is what it is now.
"I don't know. I really don't. I don't know if it's … I don't know. You can't, obviously you have to look yourself in the mirror and blame yourself. That's kind of the only excuse that I got.
"Have I got bad advice in the past? Sure, who hasn't," Dunn said. "Everyone has. But apparently I couldn't weed it out."
Since arriving to the White Sox with much fanfare on a four-year, $56 million free-agent deal before the 2011 season, Dunn has been one of the most polarizing figures in franchise history. Polarizing among the fan base, that is, as the always upbeat 6-foot-6, 285-pounder has been the consummate teammate. He also has handled adversity better than one person could be expected in taking on such a fairly constant burden.
The bottom line is that Dunn has not performed near expectations with the White Sox, and more so his own lofty expectations than anyone else's. He has a .197 average over the past three years, with a .317 on-base percentage and .405 slugging. Those numbers pale to a career slash line of .238/.366/.495.
But in talking of his unwanted morphing as a player, Dunn looks a few years prior to this White Sox tenure for the root of the problem. It's an issue that can be described as perplexing but also disappointing, frustrating or maybe even painful.
"For more than one reason," Dunn said. "The main reasons are the opportunity we had, actually two opportunities we had, to get in the playoffs, you know, and couldn't do it. So that added to the frustration of already not playing your best baseball. It's easy to point the finger, I think.
"Yeah, I can't put a finger on what happened. I just, I don't know. I don't feel any different. It's just that the way I would go about hitting certain balls, it seems like now I can't get back to doing that. I shouldn't say can't get back to doing that but haven't."
Dunn has 440 homers and 2,220 strikeouts, sitting 39th all-time on the home run list, and second among active players behind Albert Pujols' 492. His swings and misses rank first among active players and fourth behind Reggie Jackson, Jim Thome and Sammy Sosa, all pretty darned good players in their own right.
Ask Dunn about his home run numbers, and he has only the slightest inkling concerning his total because he is frequently reminded during interviews. If he continues with full-time work after this season, reaching that elusive 600 total remains possible for a slugger who averages 38 homers per season.
Personal statistics aren't nearly as important as reaching the postseason for Dunn, who has never played in a playoff contest over 13 seasons. But ask Dunn for a reaction to 600, and he smiles and responds in a way that shows that total has meaning.
"That's a lot. I can't even fathom that number," Dunn said. "You have to be good for a long time. You have to hit a lot of homers for a long time, you know. You have to be healthy, and you have to be pretty productive for a long time.
"It's so hard to say that they don't count or I don't care how many homers I have. At the end of the day, if you don't win a World Series, I have to hang my hat on something when I retire. But, hopefully, we'll get a ring before all that goes down."
There's another realization hitting Dunn through one month in Arizona, and it's more uplifting than his aforementioned original assertion. He feels great during this Spring Training and hopes to get back to those formerly more productive ways from before the arrival of this mind-boggling extended funk.
"Everything feels, and I don't want to jinx it, but everything feels almost too good this early," Dunn said. "I know we got 15 days left or whatever, but actually it feels like if it started tomorrow, we'd be good.
"Things happen, and I don't know why things happen, but I feel great this year. This one is what I'm going for. I'm going to expect that this is going to be the best one, not that it's going to have to be too hard to top my previous ones."