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Former Nationals slugger Adam Dunn earned his first All-Star nod in 10 years.
And after suffering through the worst season of his life in 2011, there was legitimate reason to wonder whether the former Nationals slugger would ever get back to the Midsummer Classic, or whether he'd ever get to experience the postseason with a White Sox franchise that seemed to be falling apart.
Well, Dunn managed to cross that first item off his list, earning a spot on the AL's All-Star roster 10 years after he made his one and only appearance in the game with the Reds. And with the White Sox currently holding a three-game lead in the AL Central, he might just get to cross off that second item as well in a couple of months.
"Obviously I feel a little better this year than I did last year," he said. "The good news is, last year is still over, and this year we've still got a whole half to go."
As consistent an offensive player as there was in baseball -- he averaged 40 homers, 101 RBI and 107 walks from 2004-10 -- Dunn wound up in Chicago last season after the Nationals decided not to match the White Sox's four-year, $56 million contract offer. The move was criticized in Washington at the time, though that criticism dwindled after the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to an eight-year, $126 million deal and especially after Dunn slogged his way through a disastrous debut season in the AL.
In 122 games last year, the DH/first baseman hit a paltry .159 with 11 homers, 42 RBI and 177 strikeouts. The crowds at U.S. Cellular Field routinely showered him with boos when he stepped to the plate.
"I don't blame them," he said. "I would've booed me, too. Seriously."
Few knew what to expect out of Dunn (or the White Sox, who went 79-83) this season, but each has enjoyed a renaissance. Dunn already has 25 homers and 64 RBI in 84 games, though his .208 batting average barely sits above the Mendoza Line. And, of course, he leads the league both in walks (68) and strikeouts (134).
Those power numbers were enough to earn Dunn a ticket to Kansas City for tonight's All-Star Game, where he'll look across the field and find three guys wearing the uniform of the first-place Nationals.
Will that be a bittersweet moment for Dunn, who lost 196 in two seasons in Washington but always insisted he wanted to be part of the franchise's eventual turnaround?
"No," he said. "I really enjoyed my time there. I really enjoyed the people. There's no hard feelings. Some of my good buddies still play on the team. I love Mike [Rizzo]. I love the Lerners. Everybody's great over there, and I wish them nothing but the best. And you saw it coming. You just didn't know how early it was going to be. I'm happy for them."