Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fan favorite, clubhouse favorite

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn is mobbed by teammates after winning tonight's game.
If you were in the stands at Nationals Park or watching on TV tonight, you saw plenty. You saw the ball shoot off Adam Dunn's bat and into the night. You saw the park burst into celebration. You saw the rest of the Nationals leap out of the dugout to greet their conquering hero at the play. And you heard the chant ring from around the building one last time: "Sign Adam Dunn!"

What you didn't see, though, came after the Nats' 2-1 victory was complete, after fans started filing out of the stadium, after Jim Riggleman had finished his postgame press conference.

Let's take you inside the clubhouse, where draped over a recliner near Dunn's locker was one of tonight's giveaway T-shirts. The ones that read "Mr. Walk Off" across the front with the name "Zimmerman" down one sleeve.

Someone had crossed Zimmerman's name out and written another one below it. So it now read: "Donkey!"

You already know the majority of Nationals fans want the club to re-sign Dunn. Rest assured the guys in that clubhouse want it just as much.

Ask them what it would be like to play without the big guy in 2011, and they start shuddering.

"It would be tough," Drew Storen said. "He's such a good guy to have in the clubhouse. He's just a good personality to have as a teammate. Obviously, the numbers, the power in clutch situations, speak for themselves. But I think not having him around in the clubhouse would be the thing I miss the most."

"Obviously, I don't make the decisions here," Jason Marquis said. "If I did, he'd be back here already."

There are plenty of on-field reasons for the Nationals to re-sign Dunn. Where else are they going to find a 38-homer, 103-RBI, .908-OPS masher for the heart of their lineup? And there are plenty of PR reasons to give the man an extension, too. Or haven't you read the comments from fans who insist they won't renew their season tickets if the Nats don't re-sign Dunn?

But there's a third reason for the Nationals to keep Dunn: Clubhouse morale. And if you don't think that should count as much as the rest, you haven't been paying attention.

Endorsements for Dunn's re-signing have come from all corners of the clubhouse all season, none stronger than from Ryan Zimmerman. If the face of the franchise wants something done, his opinion should carry some significant weight.

But this goes beyond the guys already in the Nationals' clubhouse. It extends around the sport, to players who may be considering coming to D.C. as free agents.

Think back to last winter, when the Nats signed Marquis, Ivan Rodriguez and Matt Capps. All pointed out they became more interested in coming to Washington after watching this franchise make high-profile moves like drafting Stephen Strasburg and signing ... Adam Dunn. Those moves brought respectability to an organization that desperately needed it and suddenly gave players around baseball reason to consider the Nationals.

What would the reaction around the sport be if the Nats let Dunn walk away, not willing to make a good-faith offer to one of the game's most-prolific sluggers? Good luck filling his roster spot with a player of equal or greater value, not to mention make even more additions that are needed to boost this club from 70 to 80 wins.

And good luck convincing younger players already employed by the Nationals to commit to this organization for the long-term, with the idea already entrenched in their minds that the front office isn't willing to pony up when the time comes.

And it's not like Dunn is some kind of bad seed who sets a bad example for those around him. Quite the contrary.

"He's not a guy that gets down and rides the emotional roller coaster of the season," Storen said. "He's the same guy every day. And young guys like me feed off that. You see a guy like that, with that kind of talent, having fun every day, that means a lot."

Dunn absolutely loves it here. He loves this group of teammates. And he loves the way this fanbase has embraced him as Their Guy.

But he's sick of talking about his future. That was painfully clear tonight when, during what should have been a boisterous postgame interview following a walk-off homer, he was repeatedly asked different variations of the same question: Will you be re-signing with the Nationals?

Dunn grew more and more testy with each question.

"If you guys don't realize how sick and tired I am of talking about it, you probably wouldn't ask me every day," he said. "Again, I wish it would have been over a long time ago. It's not, and it's not the worst thing that's ever happened to me. My job's to play, and my agent's job is to worry about the rest."

So Dunn will report to Nationals Park tomorrow, ready to play another ballgame, this time unsure whether it will be his final visit to a home clubhouse he has come to love.

"I don't know," he said. "I'm not going to go into tomorrow going: 'This is my last home game ever, cry and hand out Adam Dunn baseball cards.' I'm not going to do that. I don't know what y'all want me to say. I don't know what's going to happen. If I did, I would tell you."

One way or another, everyone will finally have their answer soon enough. And one way or another, that clubhouse will be impacted just as much as Dunn, the Nationals and their fans.

40 comments:

Ernie said...

What a great game tonight. Especially after suffering through the rain for 3 hours last night. Besides Dunn, the defense was strong, pitching was impressive against a weaker but still impressive Phillies lineup, and Dunn's HR...wow! I had been tempted to go to Wednesday night's finale, but after this one i might just stay home and keep tonight's memories as the best kind of farewell to the 2010 season...

This was my 4th Phillies game of the year, by the way, and although I've seen too many Phillies fans, I still haven't seen anything to draw the venom that so many commenters seems to have on here. (Though I wonder how many of the louder Philly critics are also the ones who are refusing to buy tickets until the team improves with more spending...the very fair-weather kind of fans they are accusing the Phillies folks of being.) Their team is good, and if it were my team and I could find that many fans with me in a ballpark on the road I'd probably cheer for my team as well. I might not be rude (I only bo the umps), but I've seen a good share of rude Nats fan as well. The guy who booed Dawson and Carter at the HoF ceremony last month because Hondo isn't included. The folks who boo Dunn every time he strikes out. (Except tonight, of course. Tonight they love him.) It's a game. We love it. Phillies fans love it. There are jerks in every city in this country. I'm still not seeing the problem.

I'll relent on the Philly thing--everyone else here knows more than I do, of course--they always do. But I just had a good time at a baseball game and hope to God that Dunn is back next year for more. All the sabrematics folks can root for UZRs and WARs and everything else I that distracts me from the beauty of what happens on that field. i'll root for players who come out every day, play smart baseball, and make plays or hit shots that make my jaw drop.

Anonymous8 said...

How sweet it was. 2 walk off HRs against the Phillies in 2010!!!!!!!!!

virginia said...

https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=150459274991278

SIGN ADAM DUNN!!!

NatsMan21 said...

What in the Wide Wide World of Sports will it take for Nats management to grasp the fact that they MUST SIGN ADAM DUNN? Is there a way to directly contact Rizzo or the Lerners?

JayB said...

Kind of funny in a painful but well deserved way that the Lerners have been forced by their own poor management into this box. If they were a .500 team they would be able to dump Dunn like Rizzo clearly want to....but they may be forced to keep him against Rizzo's baseball sense because they have made so many poor decisions over the past 5 years.....can you say JIMBO......so in the end they will have to sign Dunn to a 4 year contract against Rizzo's advice and the team will win less games because of it......More of the same....sad but a touch funny too.

Oh and I would resign him for 5 years...love his personality (sat with him a lunch this winter, just amazingly funny guy) but I am not Rizzo AND Rizzo is smarter than me by a ton.

DCDingo said...

The ball flew off the bat and soared high in the air. So high that my friend and I thought it might be another fly ball. But it kept going, becoming a tiny point of light before blinking out as it left the main stadium lights and dropped into the upper deck. A fairytale ending to my last season tickets and a great thrill to my baseball-starved friend visiting from Australia.
(Dear Lerners, I am a consumer of you baseball services, I don't think it's unreasonable of me to see what you are offering next year before deciding whether to renew my season package. Thanks)

raymitten said...

Without Adam Dunn we lose that game. After suffering through the worst baseball experience in my six years as a Nats season ticket holder, I went home happy yesterday and it was thanks to Adam Dunn. I'll be back next year with my tickets no matter what. But I really like seeing Adam Dunn and players like Dunn and Zimmerman keep me coming back night after night with resolve and dedication. SIGN ADAM DUNN!!!

Anonymous8 said...

In 2006, the Nats faced a similar situation with Alfonso Soriano. The difference is Soriano wouldn't negotiate in "good faith" and the Cubs have been suffering ever since as he hasn't lived up to his billing and the $18,000,000 they will be paying him for the next 4 years!

Dunn is one the most consistent players you can find. You know the power, you know the hight strikeouts, you know the OBP, and you know the spotty defense. You also know there isn't anyone available to come close to his numbers and his popularity.

Pauloyd said...

You know this whole Adam Dunn thing is a great debate and all, but the reality is that the baseball people want better defense. Adam Dunn brings a lot to the Nationals, no doubt, and I love the guy. But if the baseball people believe they are better off with more defense at first, then they should stick to their guns and deal with the consequences. Bold moves are required to jump into contention, one way or another.

If the owner is more on board with Dunn than the baseball people, I would say the money issue is irrelevant. It's not sending a message to young players that they won't commit the money necessary for a star, it's sending a message that they value defense over offense, for better or worse.

natsfan1a said...

That was a fun one to watch. Watching tv as Dunn stepped in, I said to myself, he hits it out, and they announce the signing the next day. Well, the first part came true; guess we'll find out about the second part with time (hope it comes true as well). Loved Dunn's parting of the seas gesture as he approached the plate after his dinger. :-)

(And you're welcome, JaneB.)

Stew Magnuson said...

Great way to end the season (for me anyway. It was my last live game of the year.)

The team marketing department needs to be taken to task though for using footage of Dunn for their "Buy two season tickets for 2011, Get two free" ads on MASN.
They haven't resigned him and they use him to sell tickets for 2011? Someone call the FTC!

JaneB said...

What a great post! Fun interview with Storen. AnonB, you're right. I keep thinking back to when we didn't sign Sori. He was a lightening bolt when we needed one. But he wasn't a Nat, much as I loved him. He was a hired gun. Dunn is a Nat, and I hope articles like this show the Lerners that there are several kinds of bottom lines here.

Sign Adam Dunn! I'll be in the front of 131 with my sign by 6:00 tonight.

Mark said...

1st base defense and UZR is the least significant over any position besides pitcher.

Have you seen Carlos Pena's declining numbers and .198 batting average? No thank you!

N. Cognito said...

It's not just about better defense next year, it's also about who do you want playing firstbase in 3 years and beyond. Signing Dunn to a longer contract then the Nats might want to, could mean they are unable to go after someone better a couple years down the road. If the Nats sign Dunn to a 4 year contract, there's a significant risk that he'll become a poor hitting (but with power) pinch hitter making upwards of $15 million.

Fans tend to not think beyond the next year. Teams' think and plan at least 5 years down the road.

Richard said...

I agree that last night's game was a great way, for me, to end my 2010 Nats schedule. Thank you Nats and especially Adam Dunn.

Somebody should slap the person(s) in the Nats FO that didn't get the Dunn deal done (couldn't resist) earlier and isn't getting it done now. Long suffering Nats fans deserve better than this. Hey, you guys obviously aren't baseball geniuses; this isn't some kind of rocket science decision you have to make, some sabermetric calculus. This is a no brainer.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I believe the Nats are in a lose/lose situation.
Sign Dunn to anything longer than a 2 year extension and the Nats lose and don't sign him and the Nats lose. Adam Dunn will be a DH in the AL sooner than he wants to be unless he figures out a way to cover more than the 32 square feet he presently defends.
Don't get me wrong, I love the guy but I just don't see him playing every day in the field for a winning franchise.

Suicide Squeeze said...

Last night was awesome -- I loved the Phillies fans, in unison, going "$&#^" right after the crack of the bat for Dunn's walk-off. Nothing better than the sound of a no-doubt HR...

I think if the Nats sign Dunn for 4 years, they will actually be getting a bargain. If you think they might be paying a bit too much for Dunn, or giving him an extra year, wait until they seriously have to overpay anyone else to come to DC AND the amount of money they'll have to throw at Zimmerman and others to keep them here. People like to talk about beyond next year with done, but they also need to talk about beyond a Dunn-less next year for every player on the roster that they want to keep long term.

Pay for Dunn and get a down payment on you future ability to sign your own players for free! And because you're friends, I throw in a touch of league-wide respect, too! Whatta a bargain!

SIGN DUNN.

A DC Wonk said...

What would the reaction around the sport be if the Nats let Dunn walk away, not willing to make a good-faith offer to one of the game's most-prolific sluggers?

Note the qualification here: good-faith effort.

And note that negotiation is a two-way street.

How much is good faith? What if the Nats _do_ offer good faith but Dunn balks because he thinks he could get more somewhere else?

The Soriano non-signing is instructive. Yes, we're fans. Yes, we think incredibly short-term. And yes, many here would be the first folks in, say, 2015 wondering why we're paying a lumbering slower Dave Kingman-type player a gazillion dollars. (Note to youngsters: Kingman once led the league in home runs while batting .204 (!!) -- and I wonder if in the history of modern baseball, anybody ever led the league in home runs while having a WAR of under zero (which, he did, using the baseball-reference numbers)).

No, I'm not saying Dunn is Kingman. But I hope readers can see what I'm getting at. At some point, Dunn's productivity is going to dropping off, and while he may be worth $20m for next year, it'd suck to be paying him $20m five yeara from now if he's just a lumbering strike out king at that point.

Negotiation is a two-way steet, and Dunn has a finite value. We don't know if he's asking way over value, or if the Nats are offering way undervalue. It takes two parties to sign a contract.

Anonymous said...

4 years $60 million...deal with it Rizzo!

Anonymous said...

Ernie,

You say, "This was my 4th Phillies game of the year, by the way, and although I've seen too many Phillies fans, I still haven't seen anything to draw the venom that so many commenters seems to have on here."

I am guessing here, and I could be wrong, but that you sit on the home side over by first base. If you want to meet the Phillies fans that are so nasty, head out to sections 140-143. That is where they bus in the worst drunk fans Philly has to offer.

I went to 2 Phillies games this year and can't head back until the dynamic changes.

Harper_ROY_2012 said...

This provides an interesting dilemma for the organization, do you give in to the 4 or 5 year demands that Dunn's agent has or do you try a one or two year deal for more money. the big question is if you sign dunn for 4 or 5 years how does this impact minor league player development, what do you do with young guys like Moore and Marerro?

Pete said...

Wow, what a game. The whole stadium could sense the drama (and perhaps irony) of Dunn up to bat in the bottom of the 9th with the score tied. And once he hit that sucker it just disappeared into the stratosphere. Philthy fans beat a hasty retreat. Awesome. That was my last home game this year. If that is the last I've seen of Dunn in a Nats uniform, at least he went out with a bang. Well done, sir.

dj in Fl. said...

What baffles me is the word on the street is the FO wants better defense. But there is no word on the street about having a center fielder who has not grasped the basics on baseball. The talked previously about the importance of the center of the field players, catcher, 2nd, ss and center field being central to our success. I agree with the poster who suggested getting Dunn an off season trainer and yoga instructer because if he improves next year as much as this year we should be ok. But get the guys who do not know how to play or respect the game out of the clubhouse.

Anonymous said...

Anon @9:19,

You don't negotiate against yourself; you don't sign a player for more or longer than his market value is and I can tell you that no other team is giving him 4 years @ 60 mil. He was a free agent 2 years ago and the Nats got him for 2 @ 20 AND he was 2 years younger then.

I think the Nats are willing to overpay some by going to $15 mil per year but they won't do 4 years because the potential for declining production is there; most players start declining in their early 30's. 2 years @ 15 + a team option for a 3rd year with a 5 mil buyout sounds about right.

BTW; all the talk about defensive deficiencies is mostly nonsense because you look at a player's overall value which includes offense and defense; Dunn is a +4.1 WAR which is exceptional and well worth a 2 year + investment.

Anonymous said...

JayB,

When you take way your constant negativity and clearly biased message you actually make a decent point; Dunn is worth more to the Nationals than on the open market because of his PR value and the team's need to show the fans that they are not constantly rebuilding.

From a strict baseball sense you can make an argument that the money can be better spent elsewhere while the team is not quite ready to compete for a playoff spot; heck from a strict baseball sense they should have flipped him for Dan Hudson in July but you can't always make moves in a vacuum; in 2010 the Nats and Dunn desperately need each other.

Sam said...

Funny how there was so much talk about the Nationals' great team chemistry in April and May...and then it stopped. Remember Willy Taveras? Apparently, he was a clubhouse favorite...anyone miss him?

Maybe the young players will use their head and say, "Hmm, the team didn't sign a 30-year old for 3 years because they are committed to their younger players." I still believe that signing Dunn would be an improper use of the team's money. I mean, that 4 win difference next year? What is that, the difference between 68 and 72 wins? Big deal...

Anonymous said...

You all have far too much faith in Mike Rizzo. The man wants a defensive upgrade at the biggest offensive position in the game? That's pretty much the dumbest baseball decision I've heard of this year. How are the Mariners doing this year with their defensive 1B? Anyone? Anyone?

Exactly.

And, who, shall I ask, is going to replace him?

Carlos Pena who is two years older and not even hitting .200 and whose UZR is worse than Dunn's this year? If you give Pena a two year deal, Dunn is still his age at the end of a four year deal.

Paul Konerko who is three years older than Dunn AND a terrible defender? If you give Dunn a four year deal, he's just a year older than Konerko is now... and we're chasing after him?!?

Sometimes, Rizzo just doesn't get it.

If he fails to re-sign Dunn, it'll be just another leak in a ship that is starting to slowly sink.

A DC Wonk said...

I mean, that 4 win difference next year? What is that, the difference between 68 and 72 wins? Big deal...

No, that'd be the difference between 68 and 72 wins _this_ year. Next year, 2011, the difference between 79 and 83? And then start to compete for a playoff spot the year after (2012). At that time, with Stras (hopefully) coming back, Desmond (hopefully) improving his fielding, perhaps Ramos or Flores behind the plate, Storen improving . . . at that time, 4 games could mean a whole lot.

responding to one other comment:

[Rizzo] wants a defensive upgrade at the biggest offensive position in the game?

Says who? It's just rumors! "the word on the street" is often wrong. This is called strawman argumentation. Assume something, and criticize it. Rizzo's been around a long time. I'm sure he realizes that with Zim's glove, Espinosa's flashes of brilliance, and Ian's remarkable range (and, hopefully a lot fewer errors) -- that three terrific infielders doesn't need an all-start-caliber-fielder at first. The guy's been around baseball for a long time.

K.D. said...

Sam, I think the chemistry talk stopped not because it wasn't there, but because it had been talked about so much.
While I love Dunn even with his sub-par defense, the truth is the Nats need starting pitching more. If it takes the millions Dunn is asking for in his fourth year to get it, than so be it. I'm pretty sure every player in that clubhouse has been a victim of the ruthless side of baseball and while they wouldn't like it they would understand it.

Ernie said...

@Anon 9:23 -

I wish I could afford to sit down there. I'm up in the 300s looking down the right field line. We get a lot of single-game folks up there and usually get out-of-town fans sitting nearby. It's interesting to me if the rowdy ones are sitting in the pricier seats. Of course, the worst crowd experience I had all year was behind the 3rd base dugout. Nats "fans" with no knowledge of the game and who were just generally rude. I've heard from others that the home dugout area is much better too, but I'm happy to look down on all of you from above...

Steve M. said...

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-WAR?urn=mlb-211211

Dunn's WAR is 4.2 and Pena's 1.2. The WAR takes all aspects into consideration if you truly believe a WAR calculation is significant in wins over replacement. Dunn gets you 3 more wins over Carlos Pena. Not significant in a year the team isn't competing for the playoffs but probably significant in 2012.

Dunn's UZR is -1.9 and Pena is -1.7 which really snuffs out any defensive argument and I would guess Dunn will improve his 1st base defense next year.

Mark Lerner should tell Rizzo that the numbers clearly favor keeping Dunn over any available 1st baseman. Also keep in mind that it isn't a lock that the Nats will get Carlos Pena as it is Boras and Free Agency! Your dumpster dive choice if all else fails is Lyle Overbay! Take the bird in the hand Mr. Rizzo!

Wally said...

I also agree to sign Dunn. This is a below average offense with him, and a bad one without him. His consistency makes it very hard to believe that he will stop being a productive player within the next three years, 'old man skills' notwithstanding; some decline, maybe, but not all the way to replacement level. Plus, there is no uber-prospect being blocked, and we are not trading for Eric Hosmer or Freddie Freeman.

But let's not kid ourselves, his D is really bad. It is not just range; I could take the statue defense but he is missing balls, both batted and thrown, that he shouldn't, including a few in the last week or so, giving lie to the thought that he is improving. I think his problem is that he is just so bleeping big - 6'7", 280lbs just can't move too quickly. Ironically, I think that the sabre stats are actually making him look better than he is this time. Given that we are just looking at 1 years' stats, I think that it might be as simple as giving a couple of errors to Desmond or Zim, instead of Dunn. What would happen to his UZR if he had 3 more errors (and Desmond 3 less)?

Can he improve? Sure. Maybe. I dunno. But you have to bring him back anyway; the bat is too important.

Anonymous said...

Harper_ROY_2012 said...
"The big question is if you sign dunn for 4 or 5 years how does this impact minor league player development, what do you do with young guys like Moore and Marerro?"

It also impacts your ability to go after a better free agent firstbaseman in a couple years.

Milo said...

Give AD three years at some respectable salary per year, on this condition: that after signing he go to AZ or Mexico or the DR or someplace over the winter and be taught how to play first base. Right now his defense just plain bites.

Anonymous said...

Wally, nothing much would happen if he picked up three more errors.

Hiz UZR is what it is.

He's a completely average 1B defensively... despite what your eyes might tell you.

Humans remember the good/bad moments... we don't remember the entire event.

Stats, on the other hand, encompass everything and they've proven Dunn is a completely average defensive 1b.

Sam said...

His UZR at 1B for one year says he is average. In 540 innings at 1B last year, his UZR was -14.3...that's pretty terrible. The point: one year's worth of UZR is not reliable!

Furthermore, one year's worth of WAR does not explicitly determine whether one player is better than the other. It does say that one player had a better year than the other. Maybe that means one player had a really bad year or another had a really good year. It doesn't mean that that will happen next year. First rule of baseball statistics: don't use the previous year as a benchmark!

Steveospeak said...

I think that is a great point about other vets. wanting to sign here because Dunn is here. Any shot we have at Crawford or Werth probably hinges on having Dunn in our everyday lineup. And I'm sure it holds true for lesser free agents as well. Not that Adrian Beltre would be a guy we'd be interested in, but he made it pretty clear last year he wanted to be in Boston or another top quality team. No the Nats aren't there yet, but players like that would rather be surrounded by guys like Dunn than a guy like Pena.

Sam said...

Just so we are all clear and everyone doesn't hate me: I am not against signing Dunn. I just think it would be smarter not to. I will be satisfied either way for two reasons: a.) I don't think the Nationals are competing next year either way, so it's essentially the past 15 years all over again; and b.) it's out of my control, so I don't need to fret over it that much.

The Great Unwashed said...

I'm on board with re-signing Dunn. I'm not sure I'd do more than three years with an option for a fourth, but that's just me.

According to mlb.com, the Nats are 23rd in the league in runs scored, 21st in RBI, and 20th in batting average this season -- and this is with Adam Dunn in the line up.

What I'm getting at is this shows how mediocre the rest of the line up is as a whole (Zimmerman and a few others excluded as individuals, of course). The Nats need another good bat or two at the very least to get their line up on par with the better teams in the league. If Dunn leaves, that leaves the Nats to get yet another legitimate power threat who can win games. Why make the offseason that much harder when Dunn's already on the team?

Also, people seem to think if he gets signed, he has to be on the team for the length of his contract. Anyone heard of trades? If his defense is so bad he's clearly hurting the team, there's likely to be 3-4 AL teams who need a DH of his caliber.

By the way, kudos to dj in Fl on the Nyjer/defense comparison. Good point. I couldn't agree more. But you do realize the FO puts up with that because he comes cheap.

Dave W said...

No brainer - keep player that the fans love, and it's 1B for crying out loud. Not like they're going to bring in some HOF. How could it be more simple? Nyger has brought nothing but shame to this team with his theatrics. How about we pay someone who respects the game and the town.

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