Arlington, TX, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn (32) stretches during a workout at Rangers Ballpark, and he's like, "Oh, hey." The White Sox will open the season against the Rangers.
On March 31, 2008, Brian Bocock was the Opening Day shortstop for the San Francisco Giants. If he wasn't the least-qualified hitter to start on Opening Day in the last 100 years, he is probably on a short list. The season before he was the Opening Day starter, he hit .220 with a .293 on-base percentage. In single-A. He did that in single-A. Five months later, he was the starting shortstop on Opening Day for a major-league team.
When the day was done, he had a .667 on-base percentage. He worked two leadoff walks, looking like Eddie Joost at the plate and Omar Vizquel in the field. Absolutely no one expected it to continue, not even the people in the world who went by "Mrs. Bocock." That's the kind of Opening Day performance you can safely ignore.
There are others, though, that are more seductive. On Thursday, the esteemed Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus tweeted thusly:
A lot of what we've seen on Opening Day has confirmed what I expected for the 2012 season, and the rest is just small sample size.— Sam Miller (@SamMillerBP) April 5, 2012
That's about right. And of all the Opening Day performances I want to believe in so far -- Joe Nathan looking like his old self, Justin Masterson looking like vintage Kevin Brown, Erik Bedard not exploding and sending deadly ligament shrapnel into the stands -- the one that I'm going to chose to believe is that of Adam Dunn, who hit a monster home run on Friday. Warning: Hawk Harrelson.
Our own Jeff Sullivan wrote about Dunn's hot start in early March. That was followed by a less cheery addendum. But Dunn still finished the spring with a .263/.408/.596 line, with six homers, 15 walks, and 14 strikeouts in 57 at-bats. That's the kind of stat line that we'd carve into the wall of an exploratory spacecraft to teach alien civilizations about Adam Dunn. It sure looked like the old Adam Dunn.
And on Friday he hit a home run. And took a walk. And struck out. This is the Adam Dunn the White Sox thought they were getting. This is the Adam Dunn we remember. Even though the White Sox lost to the Rangers, 3-2, there is a glimmer of hope there.
Of course, Dunn homered on Opening Day last year, too. He sort of does this every Opening Day -- of the 11 Opening Days he's played, he's homered in eight of them (which is a record). We know not to make too much of a single game; it's probably especially wise not to read into an Adam Dunn home run on Opening Day. That's just what he does.
But everything is pointing to an Adam Dunn renaissance. The anecdotal evidence. The limited empirical evidence. It might not mean anything, but it's better than rationalizing away an awful start as being meaningless. The alternative to believing that Dunn is back is believing that a 31-year-old slugger can turn into the worst major-league hitter in history over one offseason. That possibility scares the absolute hell out of me. So I'm taking my small sample size and running with it. Adam Dunn is back. Adam Dunn is back. Adam Dunn is back.
Also, I can delete this post in June, so don't be a smartass.