Calling the award “bittersweet” because it conjures up memories of 2011 and because the White Sox failed in their September bid to win the American League Central Division, Adam Dunn was named The Sporting News AL Comeback Player of the Year on Tuesday.
The White Sox’ 32-year-old designated hitter and first baseman hit 41 homers and drove in 96 runs while batting .204, a year after his first, disappointing season with the Sox in 2011 when he batted .159 with 11 homers and 42 RBI.
In addition to hitting 18 homers that either tied a game or gave the Sox a lead, Dunn walked a major-league high 105 times and scored 87 runs this season. His 41 homers tied for sixth-most in Sox history, including 15 against lefties after hitting none in 2011.
Dunn struck out 222 times, one short of Mark Reynolds’ record. In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Dunn said he plans to be more aggressive early in counts next season. That could lead to fewer counts but it would keep him out of two-strike counts and cut down on the strikeouts.
“I know what I need to fix,” he said.
Alex Rios and Jake Peavy were also candidates for the award. Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney won MLB.com’s Comeback Player award last week. The Sox aren’t expected to pick up Peavy’s $22 million option but Dunn said he has been in contact with Peavy almost daily, and that Peavy is telling him he’d like to return if a new deal can be worked out.
Dunn is the fifth Sox to win the Sporting News award — which is regarded as the most prestigious — since its inception in 1965, joining Jim Thome (2006), Paul Konerko (2004), Frank Thomas (2000) and Bo Jackson (1993). Dunn was named to his second All-Star Team (2002 with Cincinnati). He reached the 400-home run and 1,000 RBI career milestones this season.
“It’s an award I hope I never win again,” Dunn said. “It’s bittersweet. I’m very appreciative, but I wish I never would have won it — then I wouldn’t have had the bad to go with the good.”
Said Sox manager Robin Ventura: “We had a number of guys mentioned throughout the season as candidates for this award, which is gratifying for us as a coaching staff. Adam is one of the best clubhouse guys I have been around, and it’s nice to see that his hard work paid off. He is deserving of the honor.”