“I told him, ‘Do you have to be hurt to win Comeback Player of the Year because if you don’t it’s mine. I’ve already claimed it,” Dunn said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. “I don’t know if you get a trophy or what. It’s not an award that I want to win but I haven’t won it, so I might as well win it.”
Dunn’s suspicions are correct. Players bouncing back from an injury plagued year often get the honor, but not always. The award isn’t that old yet so there aren’t rules so much as tendencies so far. It came into being in 2005 as part of a sponsorship agreement between MLB and Viagra. Yeah, I thought that was pretty funny too. I guess it pre-dates the ol’ double clawfoot tub action that Cialis brings us. There have been 14 winners and by my count 8 of them were coming off of a poor season as a direct result of injury. Cases could be made for Francisco Liriano, 2010 winner, who missed 2007 after Tommy John Surgery and then struggled to regain his effectiveness for a bit and also Cliff Lee who had an abdominal strain for the first month of 2007 and was ineffective for most of the season spending some time in AAA as a result before taking it home in ‘08. Dmitri Young won the NL award in 2007 after a tough ’06 season that included some drug and depression issues, a divorce, and a legal problem that resulted in him pleading guilty to the assault of his girlfriend, which makes Adam Dunn’s inability to hit lefties seem kind of fortunate by comparison. Brad Lidge won in 2008 after wandering around aimlessly for a couple seasons slow to recover from a Scott Podsednik World Series walk-off in 2005. Or an Albert Pujols bomb from the previous series that finally landed about the time he was issued his award.
I’d say Dunn has a legit shot. After such a dismal year how good do you even have to be before people say, “Wow! That is such a marked improvement!” There is a large contingent that has him written off as about done. Just keeping his heart rate up long enough to step into the box will rate as a victory of sorts to some. According to reports coming out of Glendale, he seems to have dropped a couple of pounds, but I’m always dubious of weight adjustment claims translating into results. He’s definitely kept his head on straight through all of this. We don’t truly know what he’s thinking all of the time, Jake Peavy will have you know, but Adam claims to not be too concerned about the fan reception he’s been getting regularly ever since his complete and total uselessness emerged and is taking it in stride. Also, who says he wasn’t hurt? Maybe an athletic guy like Matt Holiday can recover from an appendectomy fairly quickly to resume being an effective major leaguer but who is to say that Dunn’s issues didn’t actually stem from that? There’s your injury right there! That explanation is far more satisfying than, “temporarily (fingers crossed) forgot how to hit”.
So no Adam, you don’t have to be hurt to win, but let’s just say you were because it will make us all feel better and maybe help your case in winning Comeback Player of the Year. Make MLB and Viagra proud.