Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sign Adam Dunn? Fans say yes

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn clubbed two homers and drove in five runs tonight.
The chant started in the upper deck, behind the plate, right after Adam Dunn mashed his first home run of the night. By the time he crossed the plate again one inning later with his second blast of the game, it had grown in decibel level.

"Sign Adam Dunn! Sign Adam Dunn!"

The big guy could hear it, and he appreciates the sentiment.

"Like I said all along, it's really good to feel wanted," he said. "I mean, who doesn't want that feeling? You really can't put that kind of thing into words. That's special."

If Dunn, sitting in the first-base dugout at Nationals Park, could hear the chant, surely Mike Rizzo and Mark Lerner sitting a few feet away in the front row could hear it as well. The fans' preference in this matter has been known for some time. More and more, it appears Dunn (who carried his team to an 8-3 win over the Braves with two homers and five RBI) shares their passion.

"It's starting to become home," he said. "The way the fans have received me, it's good. I don't know how else to put it. That's something that doesn't happen often."

Is that enough to convince Dunn to sign whatever the Nationals' best offer winds up being this winter? We still don't know. But it's been obvious all along -- and it should really be obvious at this point -- that the two sides genuinely want to get a deal done. Dunn may feel obligated to declare free agency and gauge what else exactly is out there, but his preference has been (and will continue to be) staying in D.C.

Nights like this should make it clear how much both sides need the other. The Nationals need Dunn in 2011 and beyond. Well, let me amend that: They need a player at least as good as Dunn in 2011 and beyond. If they can get their hands on someone equal to or better than him, by all means. But good luck 1) finding that guy and 2) convincing him to sign with a team that has finished in last place five of the last six seasons.

This, of course, is a two-way street. The Nats have to make a good faith offer to keep Dunn, but he also has to display some commitment to the organization that has employed him the last two seasons. This shouldn't be an issue, because Dunn clearly wants to be part of this franchise moving forward. He's never been the guy looking to play in the glitziest market under the brightest light. He doesn't need to play in New York or Boston. He's happy to be The Man in Washington ... provided he's paid market value, of course.

The feeling inside the Nationals clubhouse hasn't changed on this matter, either. They want Dunn (who now ranks second in the NL with 37 homers and fifth in the league with 101 RBI) around for a long time.

"I'd love to have him here for three or four years or more," said Jordan Zimmermann, who earned his first big-league win since June 25, 2009, with five strong innings tonight. "He's a huge part of our offense. He drives in runs. He hits home runs. His defense at first has gotten so much better. He's an all-around great player."

Anyone opposed to re-signing Dunn usually feels that way because of his lack of defensive skill. It's a fair point, but it also depends how much you believe defense matters.

Yes, Dunn committed his 12th error of the season tonight (one behind Ryan Howard for tops among NL first basemen) and it allowed a run to score. He also drove in five runs with two homers and a clutch single off left-hander Mike Dunn (no relation) that broke this game open.

So for the game, Dunn was a +4. Capitals fans would happily take that from Alex Ovechkin. Nationals fans should do likewise with Dunn.

There was plenty more to this game than the exploits of the cleanup hitter. Zimmermann put together his best performance since that dominant start in Florida on August 31. Tyler Clippard continued his late-season surge out of the bullpen, retiring all six batters he faced and striking out four. The Nationals as a team beat Tim Hudson for only the second time in 18 career encounters. Oh yeah, and they also own their first four-game winning streak of the season. (Only took five months and three weeks to do it.)

But the emotional highlight of the night (non-Dunn division) came when Willie Harris launched a drive off the center-field wall, watched it carom well out of Nate McLouth's reach, saw third base coach Pat Listach waving him around and realized what this meant.

"I felt like I had a chance to make it," Harris said. "But I wasn't sure if I wanted to go."

Harris had to huff and puff his way through the plate, but he slid in safely with the first inside-the-park home run of his life. Yes, of his life. He can't remember ever doing it in the minors, in high school or even in Little League.

Harris immediately had thoughts of his mother, Geraldine Harris, and his grandmother, Elizabeth Hudson, back home in Cairo, Ga., hooting and hollering over the dramatic play.

What does he think Mrs. Hudson's reaction was? "Oh my god! My baby!" Harris squealed.

Of course, both ladies (lifelong Braves fans) couldn't have been too happy with the end result: the latest in a string of blows to Atlanta's playoff hopes. After leading the NL East most of the season, they now trail the Phillies by seven games with eight to play. They're also barely hanging on in the wild-card race.

Perhaps Mrs. Harris' pain will be eased when she receives a gift from her son: Tonight's home run ball. Harris certainly is proud of the accomplishment.

"It's definitely a great thing to be able to say I hit an inside-the-park home run," he said. "Dunner hits 40 a year, but he can't do that. I think I've got the edge on him on that one."

OK, so Dunn isn't the most complete ballplayer in the world. What he does do well, though, is worth a lot.

And in case anyone didn't remember that, a bunch of fans in the upper deck at Nationals Park tonight pronounced it loud and clear.


Anonymous8 said...

Dunn put an exclamation point on his stats offensively and defensively.

The fans have spoken loudly all season. This is a player that is as consistent as any power hitter with maybe the exception of Pujols and ARod.

My biggest concern is the intangibles with Ryan Zimmerman. Would Zimmerman's offensive stats suffer without Dunn in the lineup?

Rizzo/Lerner have to take the whole picture into consideration.

Positively Half St. said...


It is important to remember that the Nats have not finished last all 6 seasons. They managed to be better than the Marlins the year they won 73 (2007, I think). It is important the same way that they don't have 6 losing seasons is important (81-81 in 2005). We fans don't want stories on threatening to put strings together like the Pirates or Orioles.

NatsNut said...

Yea, Mark. 2007 = 4th place ahead of the Marlins.

Anonymous said...

BTW, as for Nyger....the Caps are still looking for a chippy defenseman....

phil dunn said...

Jerking Dunn around is just more evidence of the Lerners' frugal mindset. Sadly, they are hopelessly cheap and they will never change. That's the way they ran their construction business and that's the way they will always run the Nationals. For the life of me, I can't understand why Dunn wants to come back here after such shabby treatment. Move on Adam, there is life after playing in pinch penny city.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo is not a forceful guy. If Kasten couldn't convince Ted Lerner to spend some money (as Boswell says is the case), Rizzo certainly won't be able to so.

sjm105 said...

Dunn wants to return because unlike phil dunn, he understands this is a business and he has been paid 20 million dollars by the "cheap" Lerners and there is nothing shabby about his contract or the way they have handled it. He wants 4 years at 60 million and we are offering 3 years at 45. None of that is shabby or cheap.

The people whose minds are set on certain points drive me crazy. We spent more money on this years draft than any other team, we sign SS to the largest contract in draft history and yet "cheap Lerners" keeps appearing. I do hope they sign Dunn and I also hope they move from 60+ million to over 75 for next years team.

I also understand this has not gone like most fans want but its my team and I will support baseball in DC no matter who is playing for us. My god, I watched Carlos Paula get hit on the head with a fly ball at Griffith Stadium!! It wasn't as bad a Nyjer throwing his glove, but back then there were just 8 teams in the AL and we were pretty much destined for last place. I feel like we honestly have a chance in the next few years.
Go Nats!!

sjm105 said...

By the way, Mark, this has been said by countless readers but your writing continues to excel. It is just very nice to be able to read something and then actually want to read it again (also might make me a slow learner). Agree with other posters that obviously, we did not finish last all 6 years but the piece was still well written with quotes I do not see in other papers or blogs. Thank you for a wonderful year of baseball writing!

natsfan1a said...

Well, I know what I'll be chanting at the games today and tomorrow. :-)

Loved the inside-the-parker. Good for Willie. I was wondering whether it was his first (missed most of his segment on the postgame show).

The Great Unwashed said...

While Dunn has 12 errors, Zimmerman has 17, and Desmond has 33. Zimmerman and Desmond have much better range, but they make more errors so I think pointing out Dunn's error total isn't a good argument against signing him.

Dunn's defense isn't stellar, but it's not horrible, and it has improved since the end of last year. I hope they resign Dunn for three years with an option for a fourth. If he falls off statistically, they can buy out the option year and move on. He's a power threat that's been good for Zimmerman in the line up, he's known as a good clubhouse guy, and most importantly, he says he wants to stay in DC. Not many free agaents are saying that.

The Nats also have some leverage in that Dunn says he doesn't want to become a DH, and it seems the teams interested in signing him are in the AL. In other words, Dunn's best options to continue playing the field are in the NL.

They'll have to pay him Type A free agent money, which is between 12-15 million a year. But then again, they're paying Marquis 7.5 million and look what they've gotten in return? That also doesn't take into account that Bruney was 5 million loss. So I think 12-15 million per year for an everyday player is a worthwhile investment. The Nats need to do something big to keep interest in the team now that Strasburg will be out for the 2011 season.

The Great Unwashed said...

One other thing about Dunn, if he gets a four year deal and continues hitting home runs at his typical pace, he'll hit number 500 during the fourth year. That'll bring some much needed attention to the franchise too. Then the big sluggers in DC baseball history will be Frank Howard and Adam Dunn. Something to think about.

The Great Unwashed said...

phil dunn and sjm105, I think you're both right.

It's true that the Nats have paid Dunn well for his current contract, and they've paid high dollars for Strasburg, Harper, and above slot for some of their draft picks this year. That's all good.

However, in a top 10 market in a sport where there's no salary cap, having a payroll as low as the Nats is frugal no matter how you look at it. I'm not saying you should necessarily try to buy a team, but as we've seen over the past six years, you get what you pay for.

Richard said...

Dunn's numbers on offense this year are better than Teixeira's, which Dunn's agent no doubt whispers in Dunn's other ear, the one not totally devoted to enjoying the Nats' fans chants. In other words, it takes two to agree to a contract, as some Nats Insider bloggers have noted. So far most of us Nats' fans put the blame on the Lerners for the lack of a contract, but as sym105 said, all parties know that this is also a business, a little sadly for anxious fans like me who want Adam to be a Nat for a long time.

FOTB said...

sjm105: Great response to phil. Could not agree with you more. Nothing like a couple of facts to refute a baseless rant.
The Great Unwashed: Great point about the potential for Dunn reaching 500 HRs as a National.
I thought the team definitely should not resign Dunn just a few months ago. Have done a complete 180 since then.

LoveDaNats said...


Anonymous said...

Dunn's WAR which takes into account offense and defense is 4.2 which has a market value of $16.8 mil so taking into account a potential decline in future years makes 3 years at 40 - 45 mil very reasonable. The other factor to take into account is the continuity factor; the Nats have plenty to repair so there is no sense creating additional holes by taking apart what's not broken.

The outfield on the other hand is certainly an area of concern; I would be very worried about having a regular outfield with Morse and Willingham in right and left respectively.

sem13 said...

Presuming we seriously pursue a free agent first baseman and don't play Michael Morse there, our choices are likely to be Carlos Pena, Paul Konerko, or Dunn. All of them are pretty much equal, when you factor in the defensive plusses of Paulie and Carlos. It'll come down to which one will accept a two year contract, like Dunn did in 2009. All would be good choices for 11 & 12.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Sorry, folks. You are correct: The Nats finished in 4th place in 2007, so it's five of six seasons in last place. I should've known that.

Anonymous said...

So much veiled anti-Semitism! Oy! We should be so lucky to have the Lerners, Cohens and Tenanbaums building hopes and dreams in our community! They are baseball men and women learning the game. They are not cheap! Mark I am appalled these people are allowed to post these rants and screeds! Despite the team's disappointing record the family continues to make D.C. proud each and every day.

Doc said...

Five seasons, 6 seasons, who gives a rat's ass? The past has been bleak period. It was a steep hole to dig out of, from the manner in which this franchise was created.

The fact is we have the best baseball writer going in MarkieZ. In a season of Nats' disasters, Mark has give us both truth and hope---and that, sportsfans, is a difficult thing to do!

Quick note on Willie's bragging rights for speed on the bases: They are tied for a personal season best in Stolen Bases--19. AD in 2002, and Willie in 2004. Burn up those basepaths Adam!!!!!!

sjm105 said...

Unwashed: agree with you that our payroll must go up and not just a little! With our potential market I see no reason not to have a payroll topping 75 million. Of course it's not my money but that's a small point. Also agree with you that it would be fun to watch Dunn go for 500 at Nationals Park in a Washington uniform.

Interested to see if our cuban wonder can settle in and not have that one horrible inning. 5 in a row would be sweet!

Anonymous said...

@Anon Sept 25, 11:10AM

I am Jewish and appalled by these owners and their carnival barker front man Kasten. Don't give me this anti-Semitism nonsense. They're horrible people doing a terrible job running this team, and failing to provide solid entertainment. I don't care if they keep Kosher, eat Halal meat, worship Jesus, or keep a statue of Jobu in the clubhouse. They're simply bad owners.

Anonymous said...

"Despite the team's disappointing record the family continues to make D.C. proud each and every day."

Yes, we were all proud when they refused to pay rent, opened a $600 million stadium with $40 million worth of cast offs and dud players, and hired a team President who spent the better part of his 5 year tenure accomplishing little beyond making very defensive comments to the press.

Abe Pollin made DC proud. Ted and Mark Lerner have not. You sound like a family member or friend, but rest assured - the family's financial situation might be stellar, but their reputation as people could not be lower.

Anonymous said...

It's not anti-Semitism. It's fans' discontent with an ownership group that's gun-shy about spending money when it doesn't involve the draft. I'm Jewish, I don't see anything about comments being anti-Semitic, and I, too, think the owners continue to have a lot to learn about running a professional sports franchise better than they have so far.

Anonymous said...

I like the fact that the Lerner's are locals who have a stake in DC as their small town home. Well it used to be when Ted was young at least ... it may sound anti-semetic but I am glad they don't think of Jerusalem as their home town and DC as a place they happen to be to make money.

Anonymous said...

4 years 50 million is fine with me!

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