Sep 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Adam Dunn (10) celebrates scoring on a sacrifice fly by Oakland Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick (not pictured) during the first inning in game against the Philadelphia Phillies at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
In this era of big contracts, polished images, and political correctness, professional athlete nicknames just aren’t as colorful as they were 30, 50 or 100 years ago. Those of us who love a good sobriquet were dealt a blow today when former Cincinnati Reds slugger Adam Dunn announced his retirement by way of his agent, Brian Peters. Beyond his outstanding moniker, though, “Big Donkey” put together a smashing career record that often gets overlooked in the wake of the so-called “Steroid Era.”
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Dunn was drafted by the Reds out of New Caney High School (TX) in 1998 and, along with Austin Kearns, signaled the rebirth of young talent in the Cincinnati farm system. While Kearns struggled with injury and inconsistency, and while the Reds were generally derailed by the Ken Griffey, Jr., trade, Dunn established himself as a fierce, reliable slugger.
From the get-go, Dunn had a disciplined eye at the plate that allowed him to draw more than 100 walks in six of his first seven full seasons, while also smashing at least 25 home runs in all of those campaigns. In fact, Dunn was so reliable that he hit exactly 40 homers for four years in a row (2005-2008), and ran off seven straight seasons (2004-2010) with at least 30 dingers per year.
For his career, Dunn totaled 462 home runs and 1317 walks, a feat which left him with an OBP of .364 despite striking out a whopping 2379 times.
That propensity to whiff, and his general awkwardness in the field for most of his career has caused his total value to be discounted in some circles. Were he five or six years younger, though, his right-handed power would command a huge sum on the free agent market as pitchers continue to rule the baseball landscape.
Dunn falls short of the Hall of Fame yardsticks used at baseball-reference.com, but he does compare well to many of baseball’s semi-luminaries from the past, including Gil Hodges, Andruw Jones, Jose Canseco and Rocky Colavito. It’s probably not surprising, though, that Dunn’s closest comp, according to Similarity Scores, is Dave Kingman, who had a decent nickname of his own.
Now, wouldn’t it be fun to see Kong and Big Donkey slugging it out in an old-timers’ Home Run Derby?