Basic Biittner : An interesting career

Monday, September 22, 2014

In less than two weeks, the baseball-playing career of Derek Jeter will come to an end after two decades of stellar play. With several World Series rings, yearly All-Star selections, more than 3000 hits, and a career batting average of over.300, the election of "The Captain" to baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in five years, when he'll be eligible for the first time, seems to be a foregone conclusion. As a lifelong Yankee fan, I would certainly have no objection to this happening. In addition to all the stats and honors, Jeter should be elected simply for living as a single man for 20 years in the media capital of the world, New York City, and not being involved in any drug use, criminal activity, or scandal. Kudos for that, Jete! You proved that athletes really can be GOOD ROLE MODELS.

Enough about Jeter, though. I mean, his praises have been sung all season long, as he has made his "farewell tour" around the country.

I'd like to briefly "salute" another long-time major leaguer who has announced that he too will be retiring at season's end.

At 6'6" and 285 lbs., Adam Dunn Dunn was a standout quarterback at New Caney High School in Texas. After graduating from high school, the Cincinnati Reds drafted Dunn in the second round (50th overall) of the 1998 Major League Baseball Draft. Dunn had previously committed to play football for the University of Texas at Austin, and the Reds and Dunn agreed to a deal which allowed him to play minor league baseball during the summer, and return to Austin in August to prepare for football. Dunn redshirted his freshman season and served as a backup to Major Applewhite, but when star recruit Chris Simms committed to Texas, Dunn was asked to move to the tight end position. As a result, he left the Longhorns to concentrate on baseball in 1999. Dunn made his Major League debut on July 20, 2001, and set a National League rookie record for the most home runs in a month by hitting 12 in August.

In 2002, Adam Dunn had a career-high 128 walks and a .400 on-base percentage. During that same year, he was selected to the 2002 National League All-Star team.

Dunn's most productive season came in 2004, when he posted career highs in batting average (.266), home runs (46), runs (105), hits (151), slugging average (.569), and OPS (.957). His 46 home runs were the fourth most in Cincinnati Reds history, and that year, he joined Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan as the only Reds players to score 100 runs, drive in 100 runs, and draw 100 walks in a single season. Dunn repeated the feat the following season, making him the only player in Reds history to do it more than once.

In 2008, Dunn left the Reds and joined the Arizona Diamondbacks for one season, then spent two seasons with the Washington Nationals and four with the Chicago White Sox before he went to the Oakland Athletics recently, in the hopes of getting a chance to play in the post-season for the very first time in his 15- year career. While Oakland appeared to be a sure bet for a playoff spot earlier this season, and they are still the front runner for one of the AL's Wild Card spots, they hadn't clinched a spot yet, as of this writing.

In the field, Dunn was one of the poorest outfielers in recent history. He also played some first base in recent seasons, but let's just say his best "position" was that of Designated Hitter.

In addition to his never having appeared in the postseason in a 15 year career - not an easy feat, with the number of postseason teams these days - Dunn, who was affectionately (?) nicknamed 'The Big Donkey', will also end his career with some remarkable statistics - not necessarily Hall of Fame stats, but interesting, nonetheless.

According to writer Jayson Stark of ESPN, more than half of the times Dunn came to the plate in his 14-year career, the other team could have sent its fielders out to get lunch because their services weren't going to be required.

In 51 percent of his 8,280 trips to the plate, the ball never landed on the field. Between 2,362 strikeouts, 1,313 walks, 462 home runs and 84 times he was hit by a pitch, Dunn made 4,221 journeys to home plate where no fielders were needed. To do it in more than 50 percent of 8,000 trips to the plate, says Stark, is "special." The next highest percentage in a career that long is just 46.4 percent (by Jim Thome). The only four hitters in Major League history who managed to rack up more trips to the plate in which the ball never left the batter's box than Dunn are Thome, Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson and Rickey Henderson.

Dunn does not own the all-time record for the most games ever in which a hitter jammed a walk, a strikeout and a home run into the box score. Thome does, with 154 of them. But Adam Dunn has still done it 125 times, and that ties him for third (behind Mark McGwire's 133) with these two names: Barry Bonds ... and Babe Ruth.

Dunn's career has been the ultimate example of "all or nothing at all." He once ripped off five seasons in a row of 40-plus homers and he also walked 100 times in six consecutive seasons.

But there's no getting around the fact that the one talent Dunn will forever be known for best -- not entirely fairly, we might add -- is his knack for doing some prodigious swinging and missing. He had more seasons of 140-plus strikeouts (12) than any hitter in history, also holds the record for most multistrikeout games in history with 681, and he has accumulated more games with three punchouts or more (171) than anyone who ever lived, too. He holds the record for highest strikeout rate by anyone in history who got at least 5,000 plate appearances, with a rate of one whiff every 2.9 at-bats.

With that said, though, Adam Dunn also reportedly knew exactly what and who he was. He was never going to be Wade Boggs. He never pretended to be or aspired to be. So he took responsibility for whatever he did, no matter how beautiful - and no matter how ugly. And let's just say his teammates noticed.

"He never took himself seriously, which kept him sane," one former teammate said. "He knew he'd hit balls 600 feet. Then he knew he'd swing and miss for a while. Then he'd hit balls 600 feet for a while. So he never worried about either."

In the 2011 season with the White Sox, Dunn hit .159, bopped just 11 homers, piled up 111 more strikeouts (177) than hits (66), and managed to accumulate 42 more multi-strikeout games (52) than multi-hit games (12) - It just might be The Worst Season of Modern Times.

The next season,when Dunn won the league's' Comeback Player of the Year. he appeared on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" and reported that, at one point, his wife asked him the best question of the year: "Have you ever considered hitting RIGHT-handed?"

And he was pretty sure, by the way, that she was serious. But you know what else is serious? That more people in this sport are truly sorry to see him go than you could possibly comprehend, including just about everyone who ever played with him.

"No matter where he played, he was a guy who was a clubhouse favorite," former teammate Rick Dempster said. "I loved playing with him. I loved hanging with him. He's got a great sense of humor. And most of all, he cared."

So Derek Jeter will not be the only major league ballplayer whose presence will be missed next season.