Though they spent more time playing for other franchises in other cities, Alfonso Soriano and Adam Dunn both are remembered fondly for their time with the Nationals. And so there were probably more than a few hearts warmed today when both players were included among the 32 candidates on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot.
Neither Soriano nor Dunn is expected to receive anywhere close to the 75 percent support necessary for enshrinement in Cooperstown, and there’s a chance neither receives even the minimum 5 percent necessary to be up for selection again next year. But both players had long and successful careers and no doubt were worthy of inclusion on this year’s ballot.
Soriano spent 16 seasons in the big leagues, 14 of those with the Yankees and Cubs. His best season, however, was his lone season in Washington.
Acquired by former general manager Jim Bowden at the 2005 Winter Meetings from the Rangers for Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and Armando Galarraga, Soriano went on to enjoy an All-Star campaign for the Nationals in 2006. He hit 46 homers (still a club record) and stole 41 bases, thus becoming only the fourth member of the 40-40 club in major league history (along with José Canseco, Barry Bonds and Álex Rodriíguez).
Soriano also recorded 41 doubles, scored 119 runs and posted a career-best .911 OPS that season, finishing sixth in the National League MVP race, all while reluctantly moving from second base to left field, where he would spend the rest of his career.
A free agent at season’s end, Soriano would sign an eight-year, $136 million contract with the Cubs. The Nats were left with two compensatory draft picks, one of which would be used on right-hander Jordan Zimmermann.
Dunn spent the 2009-10 seasons in Washington, where he continued to post the consistent high totals of home runs, walks and strikeouts that defined his eight previous seasons in Cincinnati. The big first baseman/left fielder hit 38 homers in each of his two years with the Nationals, driving in 105 runs one year and 103 the next. He averaged 96 walks and 188 strikeouts per season and finished 21st in the NL MVP vote in 2010.
Popular with fans, Dunn expressed a desire to return to the Nationals once his contract expired. But general manager Mike Rizzo preferred someone who was less of a defensive liability than the lumbering 285-pounder, and shortly after watching Dunn sign with the White Sox for four years and $56 million stunned the baseball world by luring Jayson Werth to town via a seven-year, $126 million deal that helped set the stage for the Nationals’ ascension into an annual contender.
Over the final four seasons of his career, which concluded with the Athletics and his one and only trip to the postseason, Dunn averaged only 27 homers and 72 RBIs while batting .202. His career totals: 462 homers, 1,168 RBIs, a .237 batting average, .364 on-base percentage, .854 OPS and 2,379 strikeouts (third-most in baseball history behind Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Jim Thome).
This year’s ballot, which must be returned by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America with at least 10 years of service time by Dec. 31, features only one slam-dunk candidate for election in Derek Jeter. Other notable first-timers besides Soriano and Dunn are Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett, Jason Giambi, Paul Konerko, Rafael Furcal and Bobby Abreu.
Returning players who received the highest vote totals last year are Curt Schilling (60.9 percent), Roger Clemens (59.5 percent), Bonds (59.1 percent) and Larry Walker (54.6 percent, entering his 10th and final year on the ballot).