VIERA - It's no secret that Adam Dunn isn't yet an average player defensively. As a full-time first baseman, however, he's clearly focused on improving those skills.
He'll never be a Don Mattingly or a Mickey Vernon or a Wes Parker or any other slick fielding first baseman of the past you might remember. But le's be real honest about this: when you produce offense the way Dunn has, simple adequacy will suffice.
It would be possible to field a team of plus-defenders at every position, but chances are good they'd finish well out of the money. The minors are full of superior defenders who are below-average offensively. Offense - in most cases- gets a player to the majors.
I know there's a stat available for virtually everything in the game, and that no defensive stat gives Dunn any degree of respect for pure effort. But Assistant GM Bob Boone - a plus-defender behind the plate for 19 seasons - says Dunn's defense is far from a lost cause. "Players can improve their defensive skills with repetition," he said yesterday, "and Adam's working on it. He played very little first base down here last year; now it's all he's doing."
Washington has seen its share of husky, slow, defensively challenged first basemen over the years: Zeke Bonura, Roy Sievers, Frank Howard, Dmitri Young, to rattle off a few. Pre-sabermetrics, you knew they weren't particularly agile by just watching them take the field, and you didn't care so much, because they created real excitement when they stepped to the plate. I hear the argument that, "well, the teams they were on weren't very good, and they were a part of that." Can't deny that, but good teams have had just adequate play at first, too.
Adam Dunn isn't interested in becoming a DH at age 30. He understands that day may come, but the AL holds no great attraction for him right now. He wants to be a baseball player, not just play bat. He takes infield drills very seriously. He doesn't fool around out there. And, barring injury, he be in the starting lineup at first base 150+ times in 2010.
Grouse all you want to about his glove. The first base job is his at the present time, regardless of any stat you care to throw out there.