With home run after home run by Adam Dunn splashing down over the outfield walls of Nationals Park, the joke on the chat line was a pretend phone call placed to Mike Rizzo that said “Kenny Williams is on line One!” A reference to a rumor that the Chicago White Sox general manager has a strong interest in acquiring Dunn.
The Nationals’ home run display in the first two games of the series with the San Diego Padres is certainly getting the attention of several general managers around the league as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
Dunn highlighted the long ball barrage Wednesday night with three home runs in one game for the first time in his career. Ian Desmond cranked a home run again for the second straight night as the Nats prevailed 7-6.
With Ryan Zimmerman’s three dingers yesterday, that’s seven homers in the past 16 innings against San Diego pitchers, who came into D.C. with the National League’s top pitching staff ERA.
With Zimmerman as the Nationals’ cornerstone, several teams have turned their sights to Dunn’s and Josh Willingham’s recent power numbers as perfect solutions to the need for another big bat in the lineup.
Dunn could be a very good designated hitter on an American League ballclub with his 40-home run per season average the past six and a half seasons. But Dunn still wants to play defense and does not envision himself as just a hitter. Willingham has also shown a power surge the past season and a half, smacking 39 round trippers in the last 216 games. The trio of Zimm, Dunn and the Hammer have combined to hit 51 home runs in 85 games.
Zimmerman talked recently about how the 3-4-5 hitters in the Nationals lineup are getting it together at the plate and said it’s the wrong time to break up that chemistry.
“One of the hardest things to find on a team is a 3-4-5. I think we have a pretty good one here. Personally, I think if you get rid of a couple of those guys, we will maybe take a step backward instead of forwards. I don’t think we are that far away.”
Zimmerman says the big reason is Dunn.
“Obviously, he is one of the best (cleanup) hitters in the game. He has been for the last five or six years. I think he is a very, very important part of this team and what we do offensively, not only on the field but in the clubhouse with helping out the young guys. He is a really, really big part of the team. It is really hard to find 3-4-5 that can do what we have done for the last two years. We enjoy playing together and we kind of push each other. It is a good group we have. It would be bad if we broke it up.”
Dunn says he will not let trade rumors affect his play on the field.
“No, you don’t consciously think about it. All you try to do is win every single game. I don’t care if we’re 50 games out or up 50 games. What matters is winning games. All that stuff is out of our control.
“We can’t go out there thinking, ‘If we don’t play good, we’re going to get traded.’ We can’t do anything about that as players. I don’t worry about that, for me, personally. I don’t know if other people do, but I don’t.”
So is there motivation to play harder and get on a longer winning streak so the front office has to keep the core together? Zimmerman feels that is not the only motivating factor to keep winning.
“We want to win anyway. When it comes down to it, it is their decision. Mark (Lerner) and Stan (Kasten) are very smart guys. They have done a great job here. We trust that they will do the right thing. I think it will end up how we want it to.”