Once upon a time, Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns were the homegrown golden boys who were going to lead the Cincinnati Reds back to baseball’s promised land in the new millennium. They grew up together, baseball-wise, in the Reds’ minor league system and landed on the Riverfront to hone their skills in the rising shadow of Great American Ballpark. When Cincinnati hero Ken Griffey, Jr., came home to lead the championship brigade in 2000, the die had been cast both for the Reds and any team who might dare to challenge them. And then … well, nothing, really, as the Reds never finished above third in the Central division before Kearns was shipped off on 2006.
How fitting would it be if Dunn got a chance to come back and finish the fairy tale that somehow went awry?
Aside from unrealistic expectations, one of the big problems that those Reds’ teams of the early 2000s faced was figuring out how to keep the ball in the park when opposing hitters were at the plate, as Cincy pitchers regularly allowed 800-900 runs per year. Times have changed, though, and Cincinnati has a starting rotation that is becoming the envy of baseball: through Tuesday’s games, the Reds are fourth in all of baseball in starters’ ERA at 3.26, and they’re tied for second in opponents’ batting average, at .233.
Ironically, what these Reds lack is solid, consistent offense, particularly at first base and left field. As it happens, those are the positions that Dunn plays when he is not relegated to the DH slot, and he bats left-handed, to boot. Now, you might say that Dunn is old (he’s just 34) and slow (OK, he’s slow), and that he hits for a low average (yes), but a homecoming could give the Reds several shots in the arm.
First, of course, is the power that Dunn brings, something that has been sorely missing from LF and 1B, even when Joey Votto was in the lineup. Votto managed just six homers in 62 games before landing on the DL again, and it’s hard to swallow that dearth of sock from your first baseman, particularly for a team who wants to contend.
Beyond the homers, Dunn brings solid on-base skills. Despite a .226 batting average in 2014, he’s been on base nearly 37% of the time, and for his career, his OBP stands at .366.
Finally, of course, is the boost that comes from any big mid-season acquisition, which would only be amplified by prodigal-son nature of a Dunn-Reds reunion. How sweet would it be for Dunn if he could come back and lead the Reds to a World Series victory after being jettisoned six years ago? How sweet would it be for Reds fans?
I may be getting a little teary-eyed here, but Dunn really does hold some promise for the Reds in 2014, and he probably would not cost a ton in terms of talent going back to the Chicago White Sox. With about $7 million dollars remaining on his contract, the Reds might get him for a mid-level prospect if they’re willing to eat all those dollars.
Besides, if The King can come home, why can’t The Big Donkey?