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Dunn Saga Done

Let's begin with the numbers, ugly as they may be.

The White Sox dropped five of seven games last week and now find themselves playing out the string in the American League Central at 56-63. They scored 14 runs during the week. Their two opponents, Texas and Seattle, scored 44. That's not good.

Included in the five losses was Tuesday's 16-0 beatdown by the Rangers. The good news there - in a rather perverse sort of way - was that Adam Dunn got to pitch the ninth inning on a yield of one run. Compared to the bullpen trio of Maikel Cleto, Andre Rienzo, and Eric Surkamp, Dunn held his own. None of them pitched better than the Sox's DH-first baseman. Rienzo and Surkamp now toil in Charlotte. That's how dismal a week it was.

The Mariners, who rank 23rd in runs scored in MLB, raked Sox pitchers for 13 tallies on Thursday in a 13-3 romp. Dunn was available, but Robin Ventura stuck with a bullpen that gave up six runs in just three innings.

Omitting the two blowouts, our athletes eked out a 5-3 rain-shortened win over Texas and a 2-1 squeaker in 10 innings on Saturday in Seattle. The remaining three losses were by a total of seven runs.

The team also lost centerfielder Adam Eaton for at least two weeks after the result of him foolishly running into the right centerfield fence trying to chase down Adam Rosales' home run last Tuesday. The ball landed well up into the bleachers. Had Eaton bought a ticket, he might have had a chance to catch the ball. As it were, he bruised his back, and then messed up the ever-present oblique trying to come back against the Mariners on Friday.

Eaton has been a shining light this season and will be the team's leadoff man far into the future. He had been on a recent tear, raising his average to .304 and his on-base mark to .370 while playing a stellar centerfield. The last time he went on the DL in May, the Sox were 7-8, close to their percentage for the entire season. I'm not alone in thinking that Eaton's presence makes a positive difference, even though the record varies little whether he plays or not. But the Sox sure are a lot more fun to watch when he's healthy.

The shelving of Eaton avoided what could have been a curious situation in terms of the team's roster. Avisail Garcia, who went down with a torn labrum just eight games into the season, has been rehabbing very nicely at Charlotte, hitting .444 in nine games. The sample size is small, but clearly the 23-year-old prospect is close to being major league-ready.

Had Eaton not hurt himself, who would Garcia have replaced when he rejoins the team?

Leury Garcia might be an obvious choice since he's hitting just .182, while struggling recently just to make contact. But he's just a kid at 23. He's also a switch-hitter, can play anywhere and is the team's lone utility infielder. Oh, and he can also run.

What about Moises Sierra? He gets an occasional start but his usual role is late-inning defensive replacement. Yet Sierra is another young (25) prospect who can run and has a shotgun arm. He also happens to have a .286 average since the Sox claimed him off waivers from Toronto in early May.

Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro De Aza? Only if the team swung a deal for either of them, which is a stretch. Neither would be destined to go back to Triple-A after being everyday players at the major league level.

My guess is that Adam Dunn's tenure with the White Sox very well might have ended if Eaton hadn't gone to the DL, providing that Rick Hahn was interested in bringing back Avisail Garcia prior to September 1 when all 40 rostered players can join the club.

Giving Dunn at-bats the last six weeks of the season simply stalls the development of younger guys who could help the team as soon as 2015. The Sox still owe the big fella a few million on his $15 million salary, but they'll pay that no matter whether he plays or not. Besides, it's not our money. In the unlikely event that the Chairman experiences financial difficulty any time soon, we're all in trouble.

The four-year Dunn Saga on the South Side has been a head-scratching, frustrating, puzzling story. Coming over from the National League with a lifetime batting average of .251, Dunn has hit 50 points lower in his White Sox career. He averaged 35 home runs and 88 RBI in 10 National League seasons. If Adam closes out this season at his present pace, those numbers for the Sox will be 27 and 71.

He does know how to take a walk, ranking 42nd on the all-time list. However, only Jim Thome and Reggie Jackson have struck out more - and those guys hit for a much higher average. Reggie's in the Hall of Fame, and Thome has a chance to join him in the future. Writing an induction speech isn't something Dunn has to worry about.

Maybe the home run every five games or so has spared Dunn the disdain of Sox fans who emit only a scattering of boos even when Dunn fans for the third out with runners on base. He's been treated with politeness and respect. I shudder to think how he would have been carved up had he played on the other side of town.

Never having met Dunn, I get the impression that he is a good human being. While I am tired of the story about how he paid for pitcher Scott Carroll's dinner party after the 29-year-old rookie won his major league debut - sheesh, Dunn's a multimillionaire - I'm unaware of any complaints emanating from the slugger about his treatment by the fans or media. He's not the kind of guy who breaks bats, vents his frustration, or argues with umpires when he fails at the plate. I've heard that people like him.

But if the Sox are to move up in the standings, the image of a slow-footed home run hitter, who occasionally comes through in the clutch while clogging up the bases when he does get on, needs to be erased. The future of this team needs to look more like Eaton and Jose Abreu, another slugger but one who hits for average and uses the entire field. Giving kids like Sierra opportunities between now and October 1 makes sense while trotting out Dunn, and, excuse me, Paul Konerko, does little to help this team for the future.


Roger Wallenstein is our man on the Sox. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Jun 21, 2021