I gotta admit that I'm excited in spite of my copywriting setback. The Nationals have signed a big ticket free agent. That's never happened before, right? Who comes closest? Esteban Loaiza? Dmitri Young? You see what I'm talking about. I wonder if this is how Royals fans felt when they signed Gil Meche. Someone find a Royals fan and ask him for me.
OK, now I'm done celebrating and ready to start analyzing. What exactly do we have in Adam Dunn, other than a dude who looks kind of like Lee Harvey Oswald with a mild case of acromegaly? Let's weigh the pros and cons. Cons first.
Adam Dunn is a good player, but he's a boring good player. He has a distinctive skill set, and none of it makes for good television.
-He walks a lot. Don’t get me wrong – walks are great, and there’s nothing I like more than an obviously terrified enemy pitcher watching his nightmares come true as he walks in a run. But by and large, a base on balls is not an exciting thing to watch develop.
-He hits home runs. Home runs aren’t boring, exactly, but they’re not as viscerally fun as a whole pile of doubles. Not enough running.
-He strikes out. A LOT. And the only fun about a strikeout is trying to lip-read the guy as he stalks back to the dugout.
-He doesn’t catch anything. I don’t think I’m kidding when I say that the only on field thing I remember from the 2008 Nationals is Willie Harris making preposterous catches in the outfield. We're not going to be getting any of that from Teh Donkey. (By the way, that makes three things I remember from 2008. The other two are (1) the fact that at most 8,999 people who weren't me were watching Nats games (2) and "you dead, dawg.")
Now on the pros:
-Remember that home runs thing I dismissively mentioned above? That's actually pretty important. Dunn has a system: he hits exactly 40 home runs a year. He's been on this system for the last four years, and if he keeps it up, he's sure to lead this weak-ass hitting team by somewhere in the vicinity of 40 homers.
-Walks, too. Hundred-something walks, lead the team by a hundred, same deal.
-Here's the vital thing: Adam Dunn is funny. Actually, intentionally witty, which is an unusual thing to see in a professional athlete. Consider this interview of Dunn, conducted by Astros pitcher Chris Sampson back in 2007.
Not bad, right? And it's not just threatening to date other guys' wives; Dunn is also a master of more uncomfortable than funny Andy Kaufman-style performance. Here he is whiling away a rain delay by calling into the Reds pre-game show in the guise of his popular "Adam from Milwaukee" character, sort of his own Tony Clifton.
Sampson: What pitch do you struggle with the most?
Dunn: I would say like most hitters in the league would say, fastball right down the middle.
Sampson: Are you ever going to fulfill on your offer to take me hunting on your ranch and take me and my wife out to dinner?
Dunn: The hunting all depends on if I go 0-for-4 off ya again. But no matter what happens, I will take your wife to dinner. I guess you can come too.
That's more memorable than anything I can recall any National saying ever (not counting ¡Livan! and death threats, of course). The Nationals don't have an Alexander Ovechkin, but they may have just gotten their Gilbert Arenas.
Addendum: Upon further review, Adam Dunn doesn't really look anything like Lee Harvey Oswald with a mild case of acromegaly. He looks like Will Ferrell. I realize now that I probably think about Lee Harvey Oswald more than is healthy or healthful or sane. So I guess we all learned something today.