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Reds Are Done, but Will Dunn Still Be a Red?

By Bill Peterson · June 20th, 2007 · Sports
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Jerry Dowling



Unless you're a baseball junkie belonging to the category of lost causes, it's difficult to watch the big leagues at this time of year. As usual, the sagacious Marty Brennaman put it best many years ago when he said, "I have no desire to see the Reds play the Texas Rangers."

Brennaman couldn't have predicted just how dreadfully the exercise would play out, nor could he have known such a meeting would validate the Reds as the worst club in major league baseball -- at least for the moment. The Rangers, 25 jock straps in search of an identity, went to Great American Ball Park over the weekend and won two of three from the riverfront nine in a meeting between baseball's worst starting rotation and its worst bullpen.

Among the invigorating possibilities once envisioned for interleague play were new cross-town rivalries in New York and Chicago, cross-metro rivalries around Los Angeles and San Francisco, cross-state rivalries in Ohio, Missouri and Texas and, once upon a time, a national rivalry in Canada. It seemed no other conceivable meeting would legitimize the interleague arrangements until we came to last weekend's Bizzaro World Series between the Reds and the Rangers, the worst clubs in each league.

The upshot of three high-scoring games finally arrived late in the finale, when Reds second baseman Juan Castro hot-dogged a double play flip to the keystone, initiating a comical circumstance in which the Rangers took extra bases because third baseman Juan Encarnacion had to chase a bad throw and the Reds couldn't cover his station.

One intriguing lesson from watching the World Series of Worst concerns the universality of banality, which sets in among fans in every kind of city.

One wishes he could observe the phenomenon only around losing clubs, but good clubs suffer the nonsense, too. On so many clubs, the most reviled figure in uniform is the club's best player.

The great Alex Rodriguez can't rest unless he's hitting like he is right now, with 27 homers and a 1.103 OPS in 67 games for the New York Yankees. Last year, when Rodriguez finished with 35 homers, 121 RBI and a .290 batting average, the fans and media in New York wanted him tarred and feathered.

Many believe Rodriguez will opt out of his $252 million contract at the end of this season just to show those hostile New Yorkers, but he's been around the block enough to know he's a marked man wherever he plays. Rangers fans were more than happy to deal Rodriguez away after his three-year stint in the Metroplex, where he won the American League MVP award for his worst season there.

For the record, the Rangers are absolutely no better after trading Rodriguez. By the same token, trading away Mark Teixeira won't improve the Rangers now, nor would the Reds improve for dealing away Adam Dunn.

One wonders how baseball fans hone their thought processes. Of if they do.

Consider the situation for a losing ball club like the Reds or Rangers. In each case, you have a club torturing itself with poor pitching and defense. In Cincinnati, the bullpen is a daily hammer blow to the thumb, while the Rangers usually are finished before they start because of ineffective starting pitchers. Reds fans certainly can remember the pain.

So your ball club is sunk by poor pitching and messy defense. How do you proceed? If you have any inclination to say the club should constantly review its fundamentals, really work on defense as if spring training never ended and fine-tune the pitching game, then you're ignoring the solutions proffered by the fans and media.

That is, everyone knows the way to improve your ball club is by getting rid of your best player. It's so simple: Trade away your best guy, and your club improves by leaps and bounds.

Listening to discussion that the Rangers should trade Teixeira compels one, and only one, conclusion: The people talking about the Rangers are goofy. He's 27, a terrific mid-lineup hitter for average and power, a productive defensive first baseman, and the Rangers control his contract through 2008. Let's get rid of that guy. Good thinking.

It's a little harder to sing Dunn's praises due to disturbing holes in his game. But he is not the reason the Reds lose.

Dunn's left field defense is a problem, and he's struggling this year, more than ever, with the strike zone. Almost certainly he'll post 190 strikeouts for the third time in his career, and he's already the only hitter in history to do it twice.

For all that, Dunn remains one of the game's most productive hitters, and one comes to appreciate him the more he takes bullets. Perhaps he understands that it comes with the territory, as Reds fans are pathologically inclined to focus on the flaws of their top players while deifying prospects who have accomplished nothing.

Junior Griffey finally has become something of a sympathetic figure, but the road hasn't been smooth. Griffey came to the Reds amid thunderous applause, then the public declared him a bum after he hit only 40 homers with 118 RBI during his first year here.

Not long after, the fans and media pestered the Reds to bring up minor league slugger Adam Dunn. Since then, Dunn hits 40 bombs every year, runs out there for 160 games every year, never begs out of the lineup and seems to maintain a reasonable temperament while the public discourse calls him everything but a man. Now the fans and media can't wait for him to leave town.

Though he's by no means the perfect player, Dunn is a nice piece on a contender, a big threat from the left side. But on a club that's losing for seven years in a row, he's the next piece to move for prospects in a game of perpetual rebuilding.

Better that the Reds should add pieces to go with Dunn than to subtract Dunn. They're closer to winning with him than without him. Maybe he'll still be around when the Reds no longer are playing in the World Series of Worst.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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