Even if he reaches 500 homers, Adam Dunn is not Hall of Famer

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Adam Dunn has a very good chance to hit 500 home runs in his career. You never can be sure about these things, but he has 457 home runs now, and he’s still clubbing them, and he doesn’t turn 35 until November. With teams not exactly overflowing with DH possibilities, with Dunn’s ability to draw a walk and with his newfound pitching prowess, I suspect he should get enough at-bats to get there.

Then again, my hero Dale Murphy had 396 home runs when he was 35, and he didn’t get to 400.

But let’s assume Dunn does get to 500 home runs. A couple of people were wondering what his Hall of Fame chances would be. And I feel pretty confident in offering this prediction: None. His Hall of Fame chances would be zero. He would have no chance even of staying on the ballot more than one year. I don’t mean this as a knock at all on Dunn, who has been a superb power hitter for his career. I mean this as a knock on Hall of Fame markers like 500 home runs (and 3,000 hits and 300 wins). They are silly.

Let’s start with Dave Kingman. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, Kingman was one of the more interesting characters in the game. By “interesting” I of course mean “nasty.” You probably know the story that in Kansas City in 1986 he sent a small pink corsage box up to the press box for Sacramento Bee writer Susan Fornoff. Inside was a small, live rodent. On it was the touching sign: “My name is Sue.”

[MORE: Big Donkey takes the hill in Chicago]

Well, Kingman had been harassing Fornoff because he did not think women should be in the locker room; the live rat apparently was his trump card. Clever. Classy.

We probably should take a moment here to point out just how much sports in America have changed. Think about what would happen if a player did something like that now — sent an actual live rat up to a woman sportswriter as part of a concentrated harassment for her doing a job. Think about this for a minute in the age of Twitter comments blowing up into international incidents.

The A’s fined Kingman $3,000. That’s it. They didn’t release him. They didn’t suspend him. They didn’t even force him to apologize — apparently, he STILL never has apologized. He says it was a practical joke, and you don’t apologize for practical jokes. Yeah. You know that “Ha ha, you’re a woman, you don’t have the right do you job, here’s a rat I’ve named for you” joke … gets them every time at parties.

Anyway, that seems to be the kind of guy Dave Kingman was.*

*Not that this is intended to be a Dave Kingman post but there is an interesting side note. After the 1986 season, nobody wanted Kingman even though he hit 35 home runs. It is utterly unique — no player in baseball history hit 30 or more home runs in their last season. The reason is obvious: If you hit 30-plus home runs in a season, teams want you.

But nobody wanted Kingman. He believes — and with some cause — that he was a victim of owner collusion. That was, indeed, the time when owners colluded to not sign each other’s free agents; the average salary from 1986-87 actually went down, something that had not happened in a long time. I suspect collusion was a possible reason why no other teams went after Kingman.

But why didn’t the A’s re-sign Kingman? Fornoff has written that it is because of the rat incident. She wrote that the A’s new manager, Tony La Russa, DID want Kingman but management, led by Sandy Alderson, overruled him.

[MORE: Rangers enjoyed Dunn’s pitching as much as White Sox]

No matter what kind of guy he was, Kong could mash home runs. Man could he hit home runs. He was 6-foot-6, 210 or so pounds, and he would pull these majestic moon balls that would hang in the sky and then just crash land in the left-field bleachers. He was the pullingest of pull hitters — of the 268 homers he hit that have been officially tracked, 232 went to left field. That led to massive strikeout numbers and absurdly low walk totals and a .236 lifetime batting average. He wasn’t a good hitter (except for a couple of years in Chicago when he decided, for some reason, to be a good hitter). But when he got hold of one, it really was a thing of beauty.

I’ve said before: If Kingman had played his career for the Red Sox, he might have hit 600 homers.

As it was, he hit 442 home runs and this presented a bit of a challenge. Up until Kingman, every single hitter with 400 home runs was elected to the Hall of Fame. There were 20 such players, from Duke Snider (407 homers) to Henry Aaron (755) and they were all either already in the Hall of Fame or (in the case of Yaz, Bench, Reggie, etc.) about to be elected.

This created a bit of a deductive fallacy dilemma:

(1) All men are mortal.

(2) Socrates is a man.

(3) Therfore Socrates is Mortal.

Now:

(1) All 400 home run hitters are in the Hall.

(2) Dave Kingman hit 400 home runs.

(3) Therefore … AAAAAIIIIIEEEEE!!!! Danger!

I can remember quite a lot of mental twisting over this one. What would happen? Kingman were a .236 hitter! He was a terrible and uninterested defender! He sent a rat to a woman reporter! How would the Hall of Fame voters handle this thorny, seemingly impenetrable quandary?

You remember the scene in the first Indiana Jones movie when the guy in black comes out with the big sword and he does all of these fancy maneuvers, and it looks like Indiana Jones is in trouble. Then Indy pulls out a gun and shoots the guy.

[MORE: After long wait, Dunn took plan to the mound (CSN Chicago)]

Yeah, here’s how the voters handled the Dave Kingman quandary: They didn’t vote for him. At all. Three out of 430 writers voted for Kingman, a whopping 0.7 percent of the vote, and that was that. Easy.

Not too long ago, it looked like Johnny Damon would get to 3,000 hits. I remember having a huge argument with someone about Damon’s Hall of Fame chances. There are not many bigger Johnny Damon fans in the world than me, but I felt his Hall of Fame chances even if he got to 3,000 hits were only mildly better than Dunn’s or Kingman’s (mildly better because he was a better player than either of them). Yes, 3,000 hits meant automatic entry to the Hall. But that’s because players who got 3,000 hits were widely viewed as great players. Damon was a very good player. Very few saw him as great.

Adam Dunn is one of the great home run hitters in baseball history. He has hit 38 or more homers in a season eight times, which is as many times as Barry Bonds. Dunn had an utterly insane six-year stretch where he hit 40 homers, 40 homers, 40 homers, 40 homers, 38 homers, 38 homers. There’s nothing quite like that brilliant monotony in the baseball record books.

And, unlike Kingman, he has been a walk machine. Seven times he has walked 100 times in a season — twice he led the league. The guy got on base; his .366 on-base percentage is higher than Roberto Clemente’s even though his batting average is 80 points lower.

Still — and I would not have thought this — their wins above replacement are as follows:

Baseball Reference

Kingman: 17.3

Dunn: 16.8

Fangraphs

Kingman: 20.4

Dunn: 23.0

That’s awfully close, despite the 163-point difference in on-base percentage. Why? Because WAR calculates that Dunn is one of the worst fielders in baseball history (maybe THE worst fielder in baseball history) and a pretty terrible baserunner on top of that.

Whether you buy into WAR or not … Adam Dunn isn’t a Hall of Famer. I’ve long felt Dunn was underappreciated because hitting home runs and getting on-base are two extraordinarily difficult and valuable things. But I’ve never thought he was a Hall of Fame baseball player or anything close. That’s just a very, very high bar — even for someone like me who has voted for the maximum of 10 the last few years.

So, yes, it’s fun to count home runs. I hope Dunn hits 500, even though it will inevitably lead to the spate of sad “Oh, 500 home runs used to mean something” stories. But let’s not get silly about this. I’m a huge fan of baseball statistics in all forms, but they should not be considered chains. They don’t MAKE you do anything.

When Jamie Moyer was vaguely threatening the 300-win plateau there was more of this kvetching. What will we do if he wins 300?

Easy. You congratulate him, you take a moment to remember his superb career, and when he comes up for the Hall of Fame you ask the same question that you should ask about any player: Was he one of the greatest to ever play the game? If the answer is yes, you vote yes. If the answer is no, you vote no. And the magic numbers, like magic beans, should get thrown out the window.

Rob Manfred offers little insight, shows contempt for reporters in press conference

Rob Manfred
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
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Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke at a press conference, addressing the Astros cheating scandal and other topics on Sunday evening. It did not go well.

To start, the press conference was not broadcast officially on MLB’s own TV channel (it aired the 1988 movie Bull Durham instead), nor could any mention to it or link to the live stream be found anywhere on MLB.com. When the actual questions began, Manfred’s answers were circuitous or simply illogical given other comments he has made in the past. On more than one occasion, he showed contempt for reporters for doing their jobs — and, some might argue, doing his job — holding players and front office personnel accountable.

Last month, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal broke a story about the Astros’ “dark arts” and “Codebreaker” operation, based on a letter Manfred sent to then-GM Jeff Luhnow. Diamond was among the reporters present for Manfred’s press conference on Sunday. Per The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler, Manfred addressed Diamond, saying, “You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part.” MLB’s response to the depth of the Astros’ cheating ways was lacking and, without Diamond’s reporting, we would have known how deeply lacking that response was. It is understandable that Manfred would be salty about it, since it exposed him as doing his job poorly, but it was an immature, unrestrained response from someone in charge of the entire league.

Onto the actual topic at hand, Manfred said he felt like the punishment doled out to the Astros was enough. Per Chris Cotillo, Manfred said Astros players “have been hurt by this” and will forever be questioned about their achievements in 2017 and ’18. Some players disagree. Former pitcher Phil Hughes even suggested the players have a work stoppage over this issue.

Manfred defended his decision not to vacate the Astros’ championship, saying, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.” The commissioner devaluing the meaning of a championship seems… not great? Counterintuitive, even? The “piece of metal” is literally called the Commissioner’s Trophy. Manfred went on to brag about the league having “the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty.” Be careful, don’t hurt yourself patting yourself on the back for doing the bare minimum.

Manfred said there was no evidence found that the Astros used buzzers and added that, since the players were given immunity, he doesn’t think they would continue to hide that when asked about it. He said, “I think in my own mind. It was hard for me to figure out why they would tell us, given that they were immune, why they would be truthful and admit they did the wrong thing and 17, admit they did the wrong thing and 18, and then lie about what was going on in 19.”

The commissioner expects the league to implement “really serious restrictions” on access to in-game video feeds for the 2020 season.

There has been some recent back-and-forth between the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and the Astros’ Carlos Correa. Manfred isn’t a fan of the sniping through the media. He said, “I’m sort of a civil discourse person. It must be because I’m old. But, yeah, I think that the back and forth that’s gone on is not healthy.” The reason Bellinger and others are speaking publicly about the issue, attempting to hold the Astros accountable, is because the league did not do a sufficient job doing that itself. Bellinger wouldn’t feel the need to speak up in defense of himself, his teammates, and other players affected by the cheating scheme if he felt like the league had his and his peers’ backs.

Because the players involved in the Astros’ cheating scheme weren’t punished, some — like Larry Bowa — have suggested intentionally throwing baseballs at Astros players to exact justice. Manfred met with managers who were in attendance today to inform them that retaliatory beanballs “will not be tolerated.” He added, “It’s dangerous and it is not helpful to the current situation.” Manfred has done nothing about beanball wars in the past, but it will now give the Astros somewhat of an advantage since pitchers will now be judged closely on any pitch that runs too far inside on Astro hitters.

Manfred also spoke about the ongoing feud with Minor League Baseball and basically reiterated what he and the rest of the league have disingenuously been saying since it was revealed MLB proposed cutting 42 minor league teams. Manfred’s talking point is that MLB is concerned about substandard facilities being used by minor league players, but not all of the 42 teams on the proposed chopping block have anything close to what could reasonably be considered substandard.

Lastly, Manfred was asked about the Orioles and tanking, and more or less danced around the issue by expressing confidence in the club’s ownership. The Orioles have won 47 and 54 games in the past two seasons. Payroll dropped by more than $50 million. The Orioles saw over 250,000 fewer fans in attendance in 2019 than in ’18. The O’s also saw a decline of over 460,000 fans in attendance from 2017 to ’18. But, yeah, it’s going well.

All in all, this press conference could not have gone worse for Manfred. The press found it condescending and the comments he made rang hollow to the players. Manfred seemed on edge and unprepared addressing arguably the biggest controversy baseball has faced since the steroid era. This is a dark time for the sport.