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Hail to the king

Dunn should feel no shame in breaking Bonds' strikeout record

Posted: Friday October 1, 2004 11:35AM; Updated: Friday October 1, 2004 11:35AM
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Feast or Famine
Seasons with at least 40 HR, 100 walks and 150 strikeouts
Year Player HR BB SO
2004 Adam Dunn 45 107 191*
2003 Jim Thome 47 111 182
2001 Jim Thome 49 111 185
2001 Sammy Sosa 64 116 153
2001 Troy Glaus 41 107 158
2000 Troy Glaus 47 112 163
2000 Jim Edmonds 42 103 167
1998 Mark McGwire 70 162 155
1997 Jay Buhner 40 119 175
1997 Mark McGwire 58 101 159
* Single-season record

Adam Dunn, take a bow.

You are the proud owner of one of baseball's ignominious, records -- the single-season strikeout mark.

The pride shouldn't come from merely owning the mark once held by Bobby Bonds, the father of the mythic Barry and an outstanding player in his own right. Heck, Jose Hernandez and Preston Wilson could have blown past 189 whiffs in a season a combined 10 times by now.

Unlike at least one of his free-swinging predecessors, though, Dunn doesn't lack for bravery. Closing in on the tragic number, Dunn didn't shy away as others (Hernandez) have before him. Instead, Dunn chose to respect the game. For that, he deserves more admiration than admonition.

Dunn, the team's most potent offensive force -- make no mistake about that, high strikeout totals and all -- was not hiding on the bench this week during a four-game series with the Cubs that was crucial to the National League playoff picture. Dunn was on the field, taking hacks that produced three home runs and eight of those pesky little strikeouts.

Even after blemishing the back of his baseball card forever by entering the unhallowed territory of 190-plus strikeouts, Dunn made his mark on Thursday's game in a more noble fashion. He singled to lead off the top of the 12th inning at Wrigley Field, stole second and scored the winning run on Javier Valentin's two-out double. The Reds' 2-1 victory was their third straight against the playoff-hopeful Cubs, who fell a full game back to the Astros and Giants in the wild-card race with only three games to play.

Now that Dunn has eclipsed the strikeouts record, perhaps we can remember the elder Bonds in a better light, for he was a speedy, powerful player (332 home runs, 461 steals, .824 OPS) who was, if anything, ahead of his time in his ability to be productive despite swinging and missing so often. Bonds would fit in easily with today's sluggers. In fact, 10 of the top 20 highest single-season strikeout totals have been recorded since 2000. Boston's Mark Bellhorn (174 Ks through Thursday) could be joining that list shortly, as well.

Much like the elder Bonds, Dunn is a terrific player with his major flaw being the hole in his swing. In only his third full season in the big leagues, the Reds slugger has become a champion of the Three True Outcomes -- strikeouts (191), walks (107) and home runs (45). In other words, he hits a lot of homers and rarely puts the ball in play, which can be a good thing when you consider he has grounded into a mere eight double plays in 669 plate appearances this season.

Is Dunn the guy you want up to bat when you have a runner at third with less than two outs? Not particularly. In fact, you and I have as many sac flies this season as Dunn -- zero. Only two other players since 1954 have driven in 100 runs with nary a sac fly, Chili Davis (1993) and Nick Esasky (1989).

Is Dunn a guy you want on your team? Absolutely. He ranks 11th in the NL in runs created per 27 outs (7.84) and fifth in isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) at .303, trailing only Bonds, Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Jim Thome.

Dunn also doesn't let a nasty little record get in the way of his respect for the game.

Jacob Luft is a Baseball Producer for SI.com.