With baseball’s dog days of August squarely upon us, history is in the making. And people are starting to stand up and take notice.
Less than two months are left in baseball’s 2011 edition, and Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Dunn has a chance to break the all-time modern day record for lowest batting average in a season for a player with enough at bats to qualify for the batting title, a mark set by former Detroit Tigers outfielder Rob Deer, who hit a putrid .179 in 1991.
Yes, the record many thought would never be broken is now suddenly within reach. If you ask Dunn though, all the hype and media attention surrounding “The Race for .178” is a bit premature.
“It’s too early to start talking about (the record) just yet,” Dunn said. “I don’t want to jinx it. My goal all along was to get to September and hopefully my batting average would be no higher than .170. If that happens, then I’ll start to feel like I’ve got a legitimate shot.”
Dunn enters today’s play hitting just .166. However, with two hits in his last six at bats, his average has risen four points in the last two games.
“Sometimes that’s just how it goes,” said Dunn. “You try to get out there, take it one day at a time and put some really horrible at bats together. Sometimes the ball just finds a hole. It’s probably dumb luck more than anything, really.”
To his credit, Deer, the reigning Lowest Batting Average King – who also had a career average of .220 in 11 major league seasons – has been supportive of Dunn’s quest, even lending him advice at times.
“It was more difficult than you’d think, finding a way to not get hits day after day,” Deer said recently in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. “For me, it was often easier if I just struck out. If you actually make contact, there’s always the off chance you could hit it somewhere a fielder isn’t standing.”
Deer struck out a phenomenal 175 times during his epic season in 448 at bats, a 39 percent clip. Dunn has been even more productive in that department, thus far whiffing 138 times in just 316 at bats, not making contact with the ball nearly 44 percent of the time.
As expected, the White Sox organization and fans are 100 percent committed to Dunn and his shot at history, even if it’s to the detriment of the rest of the team.
“We plan to keep Dunn in the lineup every day, no matter how many games it costs us,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. “Of course Adam won’t come out and say it, but we know how much this record means to him. Plus, the guys really get up for this. Everybody wants to be a part of history.”
“The fans have been great, really supportive,” added Dunn. “Every time I make another out, they get really loud and start yelling things. You can tell they’re fired up about it.”
Unfortunately, whenever a prestigious batting record has a chance of being broken, the subject of performance-enhancing drugs rises to the forefront.
Recently, an Associated Press reporter noticed some suspicious-looking bottles on top of Dunn’s locker. When questioned about this, Dunn said, “Yeah, I’ve been drowning my sorrows with a 12-pack of Schlitz every night. That seems to do the trick.”
For his historic efforts, Dunn will make $12 million this year, and is signed through 2014, when he tops out at $15 million.