Monday, September 12, 2016

October Surprise?

It is change,
continuing change,
inevitable change,
that is the dominant factor
in society today.

No sensible decision can be made
without taking into account
not only
the world as it is,
but the world as it will be.
Isaac Asimov, My Own View

Formerly Yours: Robin Ventura's five years helming
the White Sox is due to end in a matter of days.

Let's first establish that undoubtedly, White Sox manager Robin Ventura will be fired or reassigned within the organization at some time this month.

After a surprising rookie season in 2012 that found him entrenching the team in first place for five months, Ventura's managerial career from his first September forward has been borderline-Bevington disastrous. Specifically, Ventura's handsy treatment of the bullpen helped torpedo his smooth-groove, first-place club in 2012. And in sum over five seasons, Ventura proved completely devoid of innovation or personality (meant not as a personal criticism but a comment on his utter lack of distinguishing characteristics as a manager/strategist, beyond being a "nice guy").

Ventura for all his deserved accolades as a White Sox Hall of Fame player, is a guy who was very lucky to get three years in the big chair, much less five. But given how Ventura was hired, no decision by the front office regarding his job status truly would surprise.

Five years ago, the White Sox dealt fans an ultimate "October surprise." Rather than even interview ready-to-wear managerial candidates like Dave Martinez or Sandy Alomar, Jr., GM Ken Williams hired Ventura resumé unseen—if not sight unseen. Ventura had spent all of a half-season in the White Sox organization as a roaming coach working out of his home base in southern California. Astoundingly, he had to be convinced to take the job—a job that Martinez would have shaken off his ZZ Top beard for.

Speculation abounds that the White Sox may have a new October surprise in store for fans, and it is coming with a couple of weeks leave in the regular season for a curveball of a reason: Campbell Soup Kid A.J. Pierzynski's imminent decision to retire from baseball/prank Atlanta Braves media/belatedly celebrate Julio Teheran's spawn/pander for attention. As a feistmeister on the level of ex-jefe Ozzie Guillen, it seems natural to speculate sliding Pierzynski into the big chair as Ventura's replacement, at least among the meatheads.

Though an avowed vegetarian, count me among the meatheads. But, wait, a qualifier.

If  the White Sox opt again, as they did with Ventura, to choose someone with zero managerial experience, I'm in. Fans will get gaper's block whiplash with all the issues Manager A.J. the Skip will engender, and the front office will be told, with finality, to never again hire a manager who has never before been a manager.

In A.J.'s defense, he could be a kickass manager, if a bit Scrap Ironish for my taste. During his tenure on the South Side, for better or worse A.J. was always one to speak his mind, and though he would deny it, A.J. embodies The Fan on the field and in the dugout.

During the A.J. era, Paul Konerko was a curious choice as team captain under Ozzie (like Ventura fighting off the out-of-blue offer to be White Sox manager, PK did not want to be captain, wouldn't wear a "C," and offered little in the way of captaincy beyond meandering postgame quotes that took the heat off teammates due to beat writer narcolepsy, and perhaps powdering PK Mini-Me Gordon Beckham's hiney at regular intervals), especially when it seemed A.J. would be a natural fit in the role.

A.J. took the fight to opponents. He was mouthy. He was famously characterized by Ozzie as a guy who "opponents hate, and teammates hate a little bit less." Guillen never hesitated to call his team (or, undoubtedly seeing a touch of Oswaldo in his catcher, A.J. specifically) out. And A.J. more than once rolled his eyes in the clubhouse after getting the deets on a latest Ozzie rant to ask us on the beat, seriously, don't you guys get tired of listening to that guy spout off?

Counterintuitive or no, that's a guy I want bleeding for my team, and encouraging teammates to as well.

But, OK, that's all dropped third strikes under the bridge, because A.J. will not be the next White Sox manager.

Who will be? A hothead on the A.J. level—if you subscribe to the chill-feisty-chill-feisty pattern the White Sox seem to have established during Jerry Reinsdorf's ownership. 

A more intriguing question is whether or not the White Sox actually will conduct an interview process this time around, rather than treating the most important hire in the organization with speed-dating attention to detail.

The guess here is yes, but my next post will reveal that the snap hire of Ventura isn't the only rash skipper snatch-and-grab made in the Reinsdorf Era.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Shields Are Down

What could go wrong? I can't count the number of ways.
You could be mauled or burned for starters.
You could still drown in knee-deep waters.
That's enough to hold up and  hide in this cave.
Shields, "Big Business"

It Bites: Could it get any worse? It did—once in the past 103 years.

Today, James Shields started against the Baltimore Orioles. He wasn't good.

Shields retired four batters. He also gave up home runs to four batters.

Shields was tagged for eight earned runs in just 60 pitches.

That's brutally bad, historically bad—almost worst-ever historically bad.

Shields finished the game with an impossibly-low game score of -15.

Recall that the game score of an average start is 50. A truly brilliant start would range from the 70s up to 100. A putrid washout would drop a guy's game score down to the 20s, maybe teens.

But almost before Robin Ventura could even finish one of his patented long yawns in the dugout, Shields's doleful drubbing had descended him to the historical depths of a -15 game score.

In baseball history dating back to 1913, there have only been 16 worse game scores than -15. And believe it or not, one of them was spun by a Pale Hose hurler, the famed Ted Lyons.

Jim Margalus at South Side Sox identified it, a 16-2 evisceration at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. It was a battle of third and fourth-place teams, but the Senators created just a bit  of separation between the two clubs by pounding Lyons, who was struggling through his rookie season. Washington jumped out 6-0 in the 1st, made it 12-0 by the 3rd, and led 16-0 before the South Siders finally put a two-spot on the board in the top of the 8th.

The White Sox committed a whopping seven errors in the loss, yet somehow 14 of Lyons' 16 runs were earned. It could have been even worse; Senators were nabbed in three of their four steal attempts.

Lyons went on to Hall of Fame election; this debacle was just the 20th in what would become a 484-start career. Lyons retired in 1942, notching a 5.1 bWAR and finishing 12th in MVP voting.

"Big Game James" is merely a hurler on his last legs, who has topped that age-41 season of Lyons' in bWAR only twice, and never finished higher than 16th in MVP voting.

The last word on Big Game James is best left to a namesake, James Fegan of BP Southside:
Whatever, it is over now and we are still alive.
Not without scars; Fegan sat in the center-field bleachers for the game.

Something tells me the current No. 25 jersey will not be immortalized here.

Oh, and Lyons also has had his No. 16 jersey retired by the White Sox. 

The last player to wear that jersey? Ken Williams.

No Justice

Everyone is crying out for peace, yes,
none is crying out for justice.
Peter Tosh, "Equal Rights"

Tears of a Clown: New York City, of all places, allows A-Rod to bow out "gracefully."

I come here not to bury A-Rod, although today's performance makes me tempted to grab a shovel.

My emotions are somewhat conflicted when it comes to PEDs.

I don't downgrade PEDs as some would, equating them with the greenies of the 1960s and 1970s. But there's little I can do about the fact that everyone in the MLB of a decade or two ago looked the other way. There's little choice any fan, historian, scholar, writer has to do but do the same.

The truth is, the numbers are the numbers. You can't selectively erase them. And once it became clear that it wasn't just the hulking homer hitters who were doping up, but pitchers, runners, and fielders, the unbalanced became more balanced.

[Quick aside, I never will understand the fraternity that protects users. You had White Sox like Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas adamantly, violently against PED cheating—but ultimately, they looked the other way. The Big Hurt was a HOFer in any era, but Konerko on a more even playing field goes from an are-you-kidding candidate to well, yeah, Hall of Very Good.]

All that said, so much of the coverage of today's unsurprising announcement that the New York Yankees no longer wanted to pay Alex Rodriguez to play baseball for them was effete, flaccid, kowtowing. Press row may feign garrulousness, but damn if the hankies weren't soaked and the Hallmark aisle at Walgreens ransacked bare as A-Rod limped into the sunset.

To wit,'s Richard Justice, who goes beyond his customary feckless horseshit to set a new bar for beer crying:
Here's hoping that [Rodriguez] understands that plenty of people know how hard he worked to change, and in the end, how much he contributed to the game.  
He was a joy to watch. He would do things that would bring you out of your seat, and two innings later, he would do something even more spectacular. For that, every baseball fan owes him. 
We were part of the lucky generation that got to watch Alex Rodriguez play baseball. Let's how the ovation he hears at [his last game at] Yankee Stadium on Friday rings in his ears forever.
I "owe" Alex Rodriguez? Great player, unique talent, but, nope. A thousand times, nope.

Barry Bonds is the greatest player of my lifetime as a fan. I have mixed feelings about the hubris that drove a no-brainer Hall-of-Famer like Bonds to PEDs. But Bonds never even got the chance to weep his way through a midseason retirement after a shitty partial final season.

Why's that? Well first, he never had a shitty partial final season, rocking a 3.4 bWAR in 2007 that was just three years removed from his final full-season, 39-year-old bWAR of 10.6.

Second, in the most convenient collusion ever called, no team rang him up again. Coming off 3.4 and 4.0 bWAR in his 40s. Three years removed from his fourth consecutive MVP. Remember, it's not that Bonds was insulted with lowball offers and called it a day, or demanded only to return to the Giants.

No calls. No tears.

I get it, Bonds was as tone deaf to the adoration of media and fans as Rodriguez was driven by it, and that makes a big difference when it comes time to roll credits.

Justice, to be fair, pitched the Astros to sign Bonds in 2008—although it's hard to imagine a guy who despised Bonds as much as Justice did wasn't writing it up to take the piss out of the sub-.500 Astros, Bonds himself, or simply to amuse himself for a day.

No matter: Justice sure didn't write a tear-stained homage to Barry as Bonds sat by the phone in March 2008, waiting for a call. Or in April 2008 ... May 2008 ... June 2008 ... ad infinitum.

There are a lot of things that should ring in Alex Rodriguez's ears forever. Cheering isn't one of them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Last—er, Latest—Dog and Pony Show

Their robes were black, their heads were white,
the schoolhouse doors were closed so tight.
Nine judges all set down their names
to end the years and years of shame.
David Arkin and Earl Robinson, "Black and White" 

Coincidental Pioneer: Bill Berry [right],
the first African-American coach
in Chicago Bulls history.

That other Jerry Reinsdorf team, the Chicago Bulls, up and committed a Chicago White Sox today, hiring Fred Hoiberg away from Iowa State University.

That means the past two hires made by Reinsdorf''s teams, Hoiberg and Robin Ventura of the White Sox, are guys who had neither competition for the job nor professional coaching experience. 

The Bulls and White Sox—especially the Bulls—are no Sacramento Kings or Tampa Bay Rays. They have the wherewithal to, you know, conduct coaching searches, fly several candidates in for interviews, otherwise avoid the notion they're being run by Freemasons or Scientologists.

The inevitability of Tom Thibodeau's firing and Hoiberg's hiring prompted some digging. How often have the Bulls conducted an actual coaching search? And in a league where more than three-quarters of players are African-American, how many coaches in team history have been black?

The first 10 years of Bulls history was marked by both competition from the ABA and the so-called quota system employed by some, if not most, NBA teams to limit African-Americans on the roster or lineup, so the Bulls get a pass with regard to a black coach at least through the ABA-NBA merger. (If you find the idea of institutional racism as late as the 1970s to be a liberal straw man, I'll dig up my notes from long talks with Norm Van Lier, Chet Walker, Bob Love and Clifford Ray and share their thoughts on the differential treatment dealt them by Chicago's first coaching legend, Dick Motta.)

For the first 10 years after the merger, history is a little sketchy on coaching candidates—DePaul's Ray Meyer was once a shoo-in for Bulls coach, I know that much—and let's face it, the Bulls were downright messy, on and off the court.

But beginning in the mid-1980s, the dawn of the Michael Jordan era, records are pretty clear. And when it comes to minority interviewing and hiring, the Bulls have an embarrassing track record.

When Doug Collins was hired in 1986, competing candidates were Jimmy Rodgers (Reinsdorf's choice, and a local guy from Oak Park) and Phil Jackson (who I believe legend tells it showed up for his interview in a Hawaiian shirt and/or straw hat and was dressed down by, of all people, the decidedly undapper Jerry Krause).

When Jackson succeeded Collins after the 1988-89 season in what was then a shocking turn of events—the Bulls had just come off the most thrilling upset in their history, "The Shot" over the Cleveland Cavaliers—Jackson was the first and only choice.

Post "Last Dance," sixth title, and lockout, Tim Floyd succeeded Jackson. Floyd came from Iowa State and had no professional coaching experience of any kind. If that sounds eerily familiar, well, rest assured that the Fred Hoiberg Era has no chance of being anything near the unmitigated disaster of the Tim Floyd Experience.

Vinny Del Negro was hired in 2008, the team's third choice behind Mike D'Antoni (who spurned Chicago for the New York Knicks, reportedly because the Bulls wouldn't budge on salary) and Doug Collins Mach 2 (Reinsdorf's preference). I don't think I'm speaking out of school almost a decade since when I say the Collins hiring was so close and so foregone as a backup plan that I was assigned features on Collins to write for the Bulls publications that summer. Once D'Antoni and Collins passed, among the secondary candidates considered were very possibly the first (and, sadly, potentially only) serious African-American head coaching candidates in Bulls history: Chuck Person and Duane Casey. Neither, then or now, inspired.

Two years later, after Del Negro's arrogant mediocrity was sent packing, the Bulls hired Tom Thibodeau. Thibs was a hot candidate, already first contacted by New Orleans that summer, so Chicago never got to much of an interview schedule. Kevin McHale's name shows up in searches, but it was Thibs's job to lose.

Oddly, even then Thibodeau's hiring profile consisted of all the stuff you hear now as reason given for his dismissal last week: "workaholic" and "a guy who finds is difficult to personally relate to players."

And now in 2015, 15 years after the uncontested, slam-dunk hiring of Floyd out of Ames, comes Hoiberg.

But what about Bill Cartwright (2001-03)? Well, Mr. Bill is Chicago's one and only non-interim African-American head coach. But even Cartwright wasn't a first choice, at the time a Bulls assistant held over from the Jackson Era who took over for Floyd mid-season. Just prior to Cartwright was Bill Berry, another Floyd assistant, who as an interim choice post-Floyd went 0-2 and is the true first black Bulls coach. Rounding out the proud history of black head coaches in Chicago is twice-interim choice Pete Myers, who spun an 0-3 record keeping the seat warm after both Cartwright and his replacement, Scott Skiles, were fired.

The Bulls have played almost 4,000 games in their history, and just 156 of them—that's 4%—have been helmed by a black coach.

Maybe picking a Scotty Robertson or Stan Albeck or Kevin Loughery back in the day was par for the course. These days, where almost half of NBA coaches are African-American, reflecting the makeup of team rosters as well as ever, the Bulls didn't bother to talk to anyone but Hoiberg. Whether Hoiberg proves to be the right choice, the method in getting him to Chicago was decidedly wrong.

We have enough quotas and rules in this world, and for all anyone knows, Hoiberg is the next Steve Kerr and a year from now all will laud Gar Forman's clever rookie hire. But it's odd that the Bulls paid lip service to diversity hiring and just rubber-stamped Hoiberg at a time when that is less and less expected, or appropriate.

As a fan, hope springs eternal, and Hoiberg's uptempo offense—while perhaps not a great match for his inherited Bulls personnel—should be fun to watch. But to have not vetted several candidates, even when the first choice was and likely would be Hoiberg, is a shame for the league and an embarrassment for the Bulls.

Snatching Kerr?
A trivial note, perhaps, but back when the Bulls backed into Del Negro as coach, he came with an endorsement from his employer, Phoenix Suns GM...Steve Kerr (Del Negro was Kerr's assistant). Like Hoiberg did with the Minnesota Timberwolves prior to coaching at ISU, Kerr got his start off the court in the NBA as an executive, so perhaps back in 2008 Kerr was unwilling to consider coaching. But given John Paxson's longtime admiration, what if the Bulls had focused instead on Kerr becoming their head coach instead of his minion, Del Negro? Even a year ago, if the Bulls had so soured on Thibodeau that a firing was inevitable, couldn't they have gotten in the ring to lure Kerr from the Knicks or Warriors?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Redux: The Eternal Autumn of Adam Dunn

Players I covered on the Chicago White Sox are peeling away, set adrift to torment the fan bases of other clubs; Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko and John Danks are the last remaining guys who were on the club for the entirety of my season-and-a-half stint.
Adam Dunn was the latest Pale Hose to be trimmed, and it's remarkable that the Big Donkey is being eulogized as he is. Yes, he's a good guy. But he's a good guy who falls just short of Jamie Navarro as the most disastrous signing in the Reinsdorf Era.*
And remember how much hell J.P Riccardi caught when he suggested that Dunn didn't take baseball seriously (and yeah, accurate or not it really wasn't any business of his, but boy the straight talk was refreshing)? Based on how Dunn "bounced back" from 2011, almost four years and about $55 million later, maybe J.P. wasn't so far off, after all.
With Dunn appearing in White Sox storylines for the last time, I looked for one of my favorite all-time pieces on the beat, which, naturally, Kabletown being Kabletown, no longer exists on (at least any main byways of) the interwebs. What the hell, here it is once more, in all its wistfulness and three-year vintage tinge.

*This is, in fact, debatable on not only a visceral level — the high ("All-In") hopes of the Dunn signing in 2011 vs. the Navarro deal in the meandering late 1990s — but a statistical one, where FanGraphs (unlike Baseball-Reference or Baseball Prospectus) measures Navarro (2.5 career WAR) as an outright better White Sox than Dunn (-1.3 WAR).
The Eternal Autumn of Adam Dunn

Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011
Posted: 3:10 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini

Estragon, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his boot.
He pulls at it with both hands, panting.

He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again.

As before: Nothing to be done.

­­Beginning of  Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
Adam Dunn signed with the Chicago White Sox in early December, and the native Texan found the hullabaloo awaiting him at U.S. Cellular Field cut down by brisk gusts, cloudy skies and tiny specks of snow.
Dunn, chronically happy and chill, was nonplussed, walking through his new clubhouse and emerging into a wind­chilled dugout with the brashness that belied 38 homers per full season, pointing out at the massive, center field scoreboard, some 600 feet from home plate and 100 feet above the field, and asking — in serious manchild tone — whether anyone has ever lined a ball off of it.
It was that combination of brashness and naiveté that swept Dunn into Chicago, where he was penciled to cross 400 and 500 homer plateaus with the greatest of ease. After all, there was no reason to doubt that a slugger as effortlessly prodigious as he could ever lose his touch. As Babe the Blue Ox always followed Paul Bunyan, Dunn’s power stroke would never desert him.
Well, it’s August, the days are hot and sticky, and Dunn is nowhere to be found. Figuratively, his production has been vaporized: 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 99 games, a .590 OPS (he hasn’t been lower than .819 since 2003), and a slugging percentage of .296 that outpaces only the consummate Punch­-and-­Judy player, 44­year-old middle infielder Omar Vizquel, among his Chicago teammates — and that by a mere five points. But literally, for the start of this homestand, Dunn is absent, excused to usher his family through the death of his uncle, which has incited an expected flurry of Twitterpating messages all reaching an apex of: Adam, don’t hurry back.
“Dude, this is who I am. What you see is what you get,” Dunn said last week in Minnesota, by way of efficient explanation, apology and excuse wrapped in an enigma.
We last spoke at length before the Twins series, right before the last vestige of value Dunn could provide to the White Sox, rote fielding at first base in the absence of injured regular Paul Konerko, had deserted him in a nervous and bumbling game at the first sack, misplaying several balls into additional Mark Buehrle pitches and even whiffing on a pickoff throw.
A day later, Dunn recorded three strikeouts vs. Carl Pavano and was eventually pinch-­hit for in the ninth by Brent Lillibridge, who gives away more than half a foot and comfortably more than 100 pounds to Dunn but nonetheless achieved what Dunn could not, slugging a home run to left that sprung a 4­-1 game into an absolute laugher.
Straw has been piled on the camel all season by Dunn, but manager Ozzie Guillen has refused to snap and sit the slugger. But it was that ruthlessly efficient effort by Dunn — seeing only three balls in 14 pitches en route to three straight Ks and a fly out after Juan Pierre had stolen his way to third — along with signs of outright disgust and frustration (tossing his bat, helmet and batting gloves all the way back to the foul screen after one punch-out) that may have finally broken the llama’s back.
Sure, Dunn got three more starts in Baltimore, good for 13 at­-bats yielding a hit, four Ks, and disappointment more deeply entrenched in all parties involved. Meanwhile, it’s the relatively diminutive Lillibridge who appears to have won the backup first base job, when he’s not busy covering for Alex Rios miscues in center field.
Dunn prides himself not on home runs or mere runs produced but times on base, which means he’s surely devastated at the notion that while he’s never had an on­base below .350; he’s more than 50 points from that now. In fact, so many marks that should have been absolute basement level for Dunn in hitter-­friendly USCF are now so far from attainment he must be tempted to throw the towel in on the entire season.
Dunn is hitting .161, which represents a modicum of improvement over the last snapshot taken of him. Still, that’s a full 10 points lower than the lowest qualifying average in the modern era, Dunn would have to hit .317 in the stretch run to tie Rob Deer — and that presumes the DH still receives the same rate of at­-bats as he has been given, inexplicably, through game 120. As stubborn as Ken Williams is, or desperate as Guillen might become, it’s a virtual lock Dunn won’t see a similar rate of playing time as days get sticker and times get crunchier.
How could this have happened to a player who figured to go 40­-100 in Chicago as easy as a sneeze? Mark Kotsay, 2010’s primary DH, was howled out of town, and Guillen’s decision to choose a multifaceted lefty DH over popular but immobile clouter Jim Thome was loudly derided — yet Kotsay’s OPS was a relatively bloated .683, almost 100 points higher than Dunn (White Sox DHs overall clocked in with a .728 OPS in 2010). What that indicates is in store for Dunn is unknown, but it’s a safe bet it involves pitchforks and torches.
I’ve said it before, but tracing back to the first day of spring training, Dunn was destined to struggle. The Big Donkey and I had many conversations in March, but it was the first one that still sticks out today. We spoke at length about his poor start (and finish) with the Washington Nationals in 2010, and Dunn had pretty well accepted the fact that he would start slowly in Chicago as well — if he got off to a strong start, I’ll paraphrase, look out, because Dunn thinks he might hit .400.
On Opening Day in Cleveland, having bothered to look up Dunn’s starts stretching before 2010 in light of his immutably ugly Cactus League performance, I was surprised to see that March/April was the strongest season segment of any in Dunn’s career — still standing at a .943 OPS for his career even after a horrendous April 2011. When I strolled up to him at Progressive Field on April Fools’ Day to give him that good news — no worries, Adam, you don’t have to start slow — the genial slugger spilled his Dr. Pepper in surprise.
Alas, my news came too late, as Dunn had already resolved himself to a slow start, a dangerous drop that would see him slip so deep he cannot climb back to the surface this season. And now, noting body language and the absolute inability to pull out of the swoon, it’s a legitimate question whether, at 31, Dunn can ever climb back out of the morass that 2011 has become.
With the Nats last year, Dunn opined to me that, on a team starved for runs, he was forced to abandon his Frank Thomas­-like plate discipline and swing at pitches he’d normally take, and the stats bore that out — Dunn swung at more balls out of the strike zone than ever.
This year, the reasoning — and results — are more puzzling. He’s missed less strikes in 2011, is making more contact, and he’s chasing fewer bad pitches, at least compared with 2010 in Washington. But how he’s missing pitches indicates just how confused Dunn is at the plate, as he’s inexplicably missing more strikes.
So, he’s missing more good pitches, and chasing more bad ones. What’s next, dogs and cats living together, human sacrifice, mass hysteria?
We’re left with just the Canyonero shell, no motor or interior. Dunn has handled himself well throughout his descent, remaining a good teammate and an amenable interview. And the bluster of his earlier days, when Dunn could roll out of bed and stand a strong chance to clouting a ball 425 feet that night, remains — as recently as a month ago Dunn declared that he and fellow flounderer Rios would be putting the team “on their shoulders” in the second half.
If that’s what the club is dependent on, Sox fans, cancel the postseason show.
As someone who endorsed a rehab assignment rather than rushing Dunn back from an April appendectomy and not a couple of months later pressed the White Sox to begin platooning him to save the season, and Dunn from himself, regardless of salary (a strategy later apparently acceded to by the team), it’s safe to say that as unprepared as the team was to deal with a slumping hulk of a slugger, it handled the developments about as poorly as they possibly could.
No one can force Dunn to watch more video or accept the fact that until he develops beyond a Sosaesque handling of off­-speed pitches, that’s all he’ll see in the American or any other League; but baseball is a long haul, and successful seasons are borne of anticipating and steering around any and all negative tendencies. The White Sox failed indelibly in doing so this year, with Dunn and players beyond. Instead, Dunn’s tendency to be in constant “I’m feeling better...I think” mode reflects that of the club as a whole, where every series is touted as the one where it all comes together and it defies its status as a mere .500 team.
In a year when the club dove All­-In and the personally mended fences between key members of the team’s management branch promised great fortune on the South Side, there’s been a curious tendency toward cruise control as it has navigated the season.
Is there something wrong with Dunn? Certainly nothing that a little offseason work can’t cure. There’s nothing to prevent him from hitting fastballs again, relaxing at the plate, adjusting to the AL, its pitchers or the DH role.
What might be a problem is the very historic nature of his season-long swoon. There’s a reason why starters are rested to avoid 20 losses, or hitters sit to fall shy of 200 Ks. Dunn is so deep into his morass, it’s hard to imagine that the rest of his career, as long as it goes, isn’t just a matter of waiting for and accepting the inevitable declines.
Dunn still has every physical and mental tool he always has. Whether he can break out of the prison he now resides in is another question entirely.
The early returns, as summer cools, autumn creeps forward and suntans fade, are not generous to the genial giant.