By Dave Wischnowsky–
(CBS) Hitting a baseball is hard.
I know, because I stunk at it.
As the son of a former farmhand in the San Francisco Giants organization (granted, my dad was a pitcher) and the older brother of former all-conference high school first baseman, you’d think that I would have had a few hitting genes sandwiched somewhere inside my DNA.
But if you thought that, you’d swing and miss.
So, since I wasn’t much of a hitter during my less-than-glamorous youth baseball career, I do have sympathy for what White Sox DH Adam Dunn is struggling with right now.
But that doesn’t mean I feel sorry for him.
Not when he’s being paid $56 million just to hit.
With the Sox set to resume the season tonight in Detroit, it’s been reported that the .160 batting average that Dunn will lug up to the plate like an anchor in his first at-bat is the lowest ever for a player with at least 200 at-bats by the All-Star Break.
So, you know, at least he’s making history.
But on Thursday, it irked me – and I’m sure many others – when on The Mully and Hanley Show, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper practically blamed the team’s fans for Dunn’s prolonged slump.
Because, you know, they boo and stuff.
“You know what, if you are all fans, why don’t you pull for him?” Cooper said, before rolling into a full-blown rant almost as misplaced as Dunn’s swing. “That will help him come out of it. It makes his job hitting, which is very tough to do regardless – hitting a baseball is the toughest thing to do in any sport, OK? – it’s hard enough to do that, but when you are getting booed by 40,000 people – and they have their right, they can do that – it’s hard enough to perform at the Major League level doing any job, especially hitting, and to get booed every time you do something bad, my gosh, that’s gotta be hard.”
Sure it’s hard, Don. If hitting a baseball was easy, guys wouldn’t get paid $56 million to do it. And it’s not as if Dunn is being docked a paycheck every time he whiffs. The fans have given him time to get straightened out, and they’re still waiting. Impatiently.
Now, of course, I get the point that Cooper was trying to make. And, personally, I’m not a huge fan of relentless booing. I choose my own boos sparingly, but will certainly unleash some if I feel the situation – or player – merits it. And, I’m sorry, but right now Adam Dunn – even if he is a good guy – could earn a Boy Scout merit badge for boos.
With 117 strikeouts in 269 at-bats, the guy has been positively brutal. In fact, ponder this: If Dunn’s strikeouts were hits instead, he’d be batting .435.
He’s been that bad.
So, considering his salary, of course, fans are going to boo. But in his rant, Cooper made it sound as if they’re booing Dunn en masse the instant he steps up to the plate. Now, I haven’t been to a White Sox game recently, but I’m guessing that’s not the case for most fans. Rather, they’re booing him after he strikes out again…and again…and again.
But Cooper doesn’t seem to want to hear that. Or any boos.
“…It makes it very difficult on top of everything,” he complained, piling on the fans even more. “Can you [boo]? Yeah, you can do it. You’re allowed to. You paid the ticket. But pull for the guy.
“I believe the White Sox fans are dying to cheer him. They’re waiting for the moment to cheer him. We saw it when he hit that one home run. They’re dying to cheer for him. But they can’t resist the urge to boo when he’s doing bad. And obviously he’s been doing more bad than good.”
That’s an understatement. But, you know, if Dunn ever does do anything good, I’m sure the fans will cheer. And can all the boos.
Let’s call it a Dunn deal.
But Dunn needs to fulfill his end of it first.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.