Adam Dunn Sucks So Much He Can’t Even Suck Properly
If you listen to ESPN, or Sports Illustrated or any other sanctimonious den of sports whining, they’ll probably tell you that baseball records don’t matter anymore. They’ll place those records into two categories: the unbreakable (DiMaggio’s hit streak, Cy Young 511 wins), or the ones that were “tainted” by steroids in the ’90s (i.e. everything related to home runs). This year, however, Adam Dunn proved them wrong.
If you don’t know, Adam Dunn is one of baseball’s oldest cliches: a big fat dude who can’t play defense worth shit, or hit for anything resembling a decent average, but is good at hitting the ball really far. From 2001 to 2010, he made a respectable career out of doing just that. He struck out all the time, and his batting frequently crept below .240, but he was also a consistent home run machine, cranking out at least 38 homers for 7 straight years. He was all set to become the worst player to ever hit 600 home runs.
Then, something funny happened. After signing a deal with $56 million last winter, Dunn embarked an epic decline rivaled only by the 11th season of The Simpsons and Weezer’s godawful Make Believe album. At first, it was just a typical beginning-of-the-year slump, the kind Mark Teixeira goes through every year. Then, once July rolled around, and Dunn’s batting average was still lingering in the .160, it can’t became clear that this was something special; that Dunn had a chance to not just have a shitty season, but to have the single shittiest season is baseball in history.
Admittedly, there are numerous weighs of measuring shittiness, but let’s stick with the old-fashioned metric of batting average. The worst average ever recorded by a qualifying player was Rob Deer’s .179 spot in 1991. Deer was the Adam Dunn of his era, a big fat strikeout machine who’s only saving grace was power hitting. There have been hundreds of lower averages recorded since then, but none of the players had enough plate appearances to qualify. Usually, when a player is that awful, a manager will just take them out of the lineup. Like the year when the Dodgers signed Andruw Jones and he showed up 30 pounds overweight and with all the agility of Marlon Brando on the set of The Score. He was as awful as anyone who ever played, but Joe Torre was smart enough to take him out of the lineup after 75 games. He was well-under the necessary plate appearances, and that season will go down in history merely as a footnote. A fat, awkward footnote.
With Dunn, however, it looked like he was going to get his chance. For some reason, White Sox manager, and perennial anger management case Ozzie Guillen just kept playing him. Maybe it was because he wanted the Sox to get $56 million worth, maybe he just didn’t care anymore (he quit to take the Marlins job this week), but for whatever reason, the sad, lonely, elephant in the White Sox room kept getting to bat, no matter how loud he was booed, or how obvious it was that something needed to change. It seemed like it would go on forever.
By the time August rolled around, Dunn’s quest to be historically awful was the only reason to care about the team. They had fallen far out of the playoff hunt, and everyone knew it and accepted it. Then, in a fatefully cruel twist, that was when Guillen took Dunn out of the lineup. After he already just about ruined their season, two months after it would’ve done any good! He missed game after game, and it became clear that Dunn would miss his shot at futility immortality.
Then, in an even crueler twist, he put Dunn back in after it was too late. Dunn did his job, going game after game without recording a hit, but the damage had already been done. He fell an astonishing six plate appearances short of the 502 that were needed for his season to officially qualify. In other words, one extra-innings game might’ve propelled him to the top. Instead, we’re left with an amazing season that will never be remembered properly.
When people talk about baseball travesties, they bring up the Black Sox scandal, or the steroid era, but to me, Dunn’s season not counting is far more tragic than either one. He had all the tools and all the talent to suck more than anyone had ever sucked, but fate was against him. Frankly, I don’t care what the official stats say; for me that was the worst season ever, and no ivory tower statheads will change my mind. Adam Dunn: Number 32 in your programs, number two in our hearts. And yes, I just ended this piece with a lazy poop joke. Adam would’ve wanted it that way.